The epic flooding in Australia is the latest in a string of disasters requiring massive relief efforts, and it puts a sharp focus on the increasing need for portable, sustainable energy that can sub in for conventional diesel generators. A collaboration between FTL Solar and Ascent Solar provides one ingenious solution in the form of flexible panels that provide clean solar energy while also forming a shelter.
Advantage of Renewable Energy in Disaster Relief
Conventional fuel sucks an enormous amount of resources out of disaster relief efforts, because it has to be purchased and then transported to its point of use, often under extreme conditions. It also creates new hazards at the relief site in terms of storage, leaks and spillage, along with emissions and noise from the generators. Solar and other renewable energy sources, such as portable wind power, practically eliminate these added costs and complications.
Flexible Solar Shelters
The new solar shelter is called PowerMod. Using Ascent Solar’s thin-film solar cells integrated with FTL Solar’s lightweight fabrics, PowerMod is a bare-bones shelter consisting of a 20×20 foot flexible panel supported in the middle by a single pole. The output is only 4.5 kilowatt hours per day, but that’s enough to power essentials like lights, fans, cell phones, and laptops, to run refrigeration or AC equipment, or to power up some batteries. The entire thing weighs a relatively modest 165 pounds. Rounding out the disaster relief picture is a 15-minute, 2-person assembly system.
Disaster Relief and the U.S. Military
Barely a year and a half ago, the U.S. Navy’s senior oceanographer Rear Adm. David Titley noted that climate change could produce an increase in drought and flood events that could “result in an increased potential for large-scale humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.” Judging from recent events it looks like his words have been borne out and then some. With a certain chunk of the American business community poised to obstruct federal action on climate change, at least there’s another good chunk hard at work on ways to deal with it.
Image: Tent by Rikx on flickr.com by Rikx
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.