One company’s bid to win a $30 million grant put up for grabs by the NYC Economic Development Corporation could be a major game changer in terms of urban resiliency in situations where severe weather paralyzes communication efforts. BlocPower, an energy efficiency company run out of NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Urban Future Center, is one of the 37 finalists in the Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy (RISE-NYC) contest, which seeks to find “new technologies and solutions to make New York City businesses more resilient to the impacts of future storms, sea level rise and other effects of climate change.”
Image © NYC Parks
The BlocPower plan proposes an “autonomous communication network” consisting of a multi-building monitoring system installed in certain NYC neighborhoods. This network would supply independent solar power to storm-hit zones, providing immediate energy to those in need.
After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast in 2012, power outages dangerously hampered emergency response systems, subsequently delaying help to many hard-hit areas. BlocPower’s founder, Donnel Baird, believes that locally-installed solar panels would increase resiliency in the face of severe storms like Sandy. “Independent solar power in a network is really important for resiliency,” he explained. “As we experienced during the hurricane, it becomes really difficult to manage emergency situations when communication lines go down.”
Under Baird’s plan, solar panels could power a network when powerful storms take out the electrical grid, even providing internet service. The resulting solar power would allow people to communicate directly with first responders as well as family and friends in the area.
The BlocPower system would be a self-sufficient network that would not only provide security in dangerous circumstances, but would also potentially end dependence on traditional communication providers. Additionally, the solar panels could generate electricity continuously throughout the year, reducing energy costs for local businesses that install the panels on their rooftops.
The Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy contest received 100 entries and the winners will be awarded grants from $500,000 to $10 million. The BlocPower plan, which aims to meet the needs of 275 local businesses, would cost approximately $4 million to implement.
Lead image via Wikimedia