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Solar EV duo uses solar to aid Sandy victims

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Rob van Haaren's and Garrett Fiztgerald's unique portable solar PV system laid out near Rockaway Beach, New York, where it produced electricity for people out of power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. [Photo Courtesy of SolarJourneyUSA.Com]

Columbia University graduate students Rob van Haaren and Garrett Fitzgerald have been working to put together a solar-charged EV journey across America for a couple of years now. In fact, SolarChargedDriving.Com has been following the pair faithfully as they prepare for their historic journey, which looks like it will take place in the Summer of 2013.

Van Haaren and Fitzgerald have made a lot of progress, including the completion of a state-of-the-art portable solar array they’ll bring with them to charge the EV they’ll be driving across America on 100-percent solar-produced electricity.

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A map shows where the SolarJourneyUSA portable solar unit was deployed to provide electricity for Hurricane Sandy Victims.

PV array taken out of storage
Van Haaren and Fitzgerald had put their portable solar array away for storage for the winter. However, after Hurricane Sandy blasted the East Coast in late October, wreaking unprecedented damage on New Jersey and New York, the two sprung to action and pulled out their portable array to produce electric power for some of the millions of people who were left without electric power in the wake of the storm.

“Luckily, our solar array survived Sandy in one piece at the Sussex (New York) storage site,” wrote van Haaren in a blog entry on the duo’s SolarJourneyUSA.Com web site. “We figured it would be helpful to bring it out to Rockaway Beach to help provide some electricity to residents and volunteers. David Gibbs, the PV expert who has been very helpful during our project, arranged a site for us where we could put up our Solar Journey array.”

The solar array was set up next to the St. Gertrude Church and Youth Center on Beach & 38th Street in Rockaway Beach. Van Haaren’s and Fitzgerald’s portable solar PV system provided power to lights, refrigerators, computers, phone chargers and the temporary medical clinic set up in the church.

“A much better use of solar than letting it sit in a storage facility, isn't it!,” notes van Haaren.

We wholeheartedly agree :-)

Hats off to Van Haaren and Fitzgerald for bringing their unique portable solar array out of storage and donating it to a good cause.

In fact, portable solar ended up popping up in multiple places where Sandy had destroyed the distribution mechanisms of the old-school centralized electric grid (see YouTube video below).

Here’s hoping the use of portable solar inspires a serious rethinking of the old, top-down, center-out, electric power and distribution model that clearly is extremely vulnerable to events such as Sandy not to mention distribution center overloads and blowouts, trees and other objects taking out major power lines, and terrorist attacks.

[The video below highlights another instance -- not the SolarJourneyUSA instance -- in which portable solar power showed its mettle in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Go Solar, Go! ;-)]

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