Solar to the Rescue: Greenpeace Brings Power and Much More to Hurricane Victims in NYC

Once the clouds cleared, the sun became a devastated neighborhood’s best friend.

Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight solar truck
Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight solar truck has been powering a makeshift relief base for residents of a Queens, New York neighborhood that’s still without electricity after Hurricane Sandy. (AFP / Getty)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Here’s a case of literally giving power to the people. Since October 31, Greenpeace has had its Rolling Sunlight solar truck parked in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of Queens, New York. CleanEnergy Authority reported that the truck’s 256 square feet of solar panels produce 50 kilowatt hours of electricity a day, which is enough to power a typical household.

“The truck has been used in a number of ways,” Robert Gardner, Coal Campaigner for Greenpeace, told TakePart. “It started off hauling supplies—a few hundred pounds of bread, soup, hot meals, blankets, clothing, and whatever else was needed—and then moved on to more of a coordination role. We were able to power a community store that was being lent to the relief effort by a local businessman whose place was completely washed out.”

He added that, “With electricity—there is none for miles—we were able to provide lighting, cellphone charges, walkie talkies, laptop charging and an internet connection. This allows communications to the outside world and between sites which is absolutely critical. We’ve also been able to use the truck to setup a kitchen so that we can keep food and beverages hot (coffee is key to morale) and people in good spirits. There is nothing like a good, hot meal when you just can't get one.”

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The Rockaway Beach location was chosen after discussions between Greenpeace and the Sandy relief effort center at St. Jacoby's Church in Sunset Park. The community store turned out to be the ideal spot to use as a central staging area before the group branched out to additional neighborhoods, including six other locations Greenpeace set up in the Rockaways.

Gardner explained that the sites act as distribution hubs. “We can send clothes, food, and, most importantly, volunteers out to these places easily. We can bring generators to new locations and really make them stand out in the darkness. They become a place that people want to be because it is safe, the food is warm, and their needs are getting met.”

Hurricane relief aside, the Sunlight truck gets around. “In Mexico, the truck was on a tour of universities, cities, and other key sites to highlight the Energy [R]evolution,” said Gardner, “which is our annual report of how various countries can move away from fossil fuels and nukes and towards a clean energy future. While there, the Sunlight participated in fueling concerts, festivals, tabling, and providing hot food for people at different venues. As a display vehicle, it's task was also educational. Many thousands of people got to see just how the Sunlight works and can power their lives.”

The truck also played a part at the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC sites. “We had similar roles, though a bit less visible,” said Gardner. “Our role was to power these events—thousands of cell phones, heaters, and communications tools—so that the effort wasn't contingent upon gas-powered generators. Generators should be a last resort for the movement because they run on fuel provided by some of the least accountable, most ruthless organizations on the planet. When we have alternatives, we should be using them. That's a big reason we went up there.”

Good work sunlight! Let’s hope you keep on truckin’ for many years to come.

Were you aware of Greenpeace's role in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort?

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com

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