Solar Sucess Stories in the Wreckage of Sandy
Hurricane Sandy knocked out most of the power along coastal New Jersey and New York, some of it still off, but photovoltaic cells and passive solar construction have created some bright spots.
For example, the storm and its subsequent flooding had little effect on one school located roughly 600 feet from Newark Bay on a peninsula directly in harm’s way. While surging seawater wreaked corrosive havoc on the underground power lines that feed into Bayonne, New Jersey’s Midtown Community School, the campus has, and had, uninterrupted electrical service thanks to the prescience of local officials who eight years ago had a hybrid solar backup system installed. Unlike other PV systems installed at some Jersey school districts, which generates extra power to cushion operation costs, this system was designed to operate independent of the grid.
During emergencies, the school’s 232-kilowatt photovoltaic system shunts electricity generated by the solar panels away from the non-functional grid to a stand-by generator. Working in tandem with diesel fuel, sun-generated electricity saved enough energy to keep the generator running throughout the aftermath of the superstorm, and its smooth functioning provided a well-lit shelter for more than 50 evacuees.