Resource Hub: Using Solar Energy to Enhance Community Resilience

This portable solar generator with battery storage is safe for freeway travel and can be set up by one person in 10 minutes. Credit: Bill McEntire (NREL 09471)

This portable solar generator with battery storage is safe for freeway travel and can be set up by one person in 10 minutes. Credit: Bill McEntire (NREL 09471)

Broadly, resilience refers to the ability of a community – its systems, institutions, and residents – to adapt to changing conditions or to recover from an emergency event or disaster. As awareness of the risks posed by a changing climate grows, an increasing number of communities have identified resilience as a key component of sustainability.

There are numerous strategies local governments can pursue to enhance community resilience, and solar development may be complimentary to many of these strategies. For example, local solar development reduces reliance on nonlocal fossil fuels, which can improve energy security and reduce economic uncertainty. Also, solar energy systems can play a crucial role in emergency preparedness and response by powering lighting and communications devices and providing on-site power generation for critical operations and infrastructure. Furthermore, solar development can also be incorporated into hazard mitigation and sustainable post-disaster recovery efforts, as communities work to minimize vulnerability and rebuild in harmony with nature.

This page provides short summaries and links to online resources grouped under the broad categories of Using Solar Energy to Improve Energy Security and Reduce Economic Uncertainty; Using Solar Energy in Emergency Preparedness and Response; and Using Solar Energy in Hazard Mitigation and Post-Disaster Recovery. These resources include reports, white papers, plans, toolkits, podcasts, webinars, and fact sheets.

Using Solar Energy Use to Improve Energy Security and Reduce Economic Uncertainty

Solar in Remote Applications in the U.S.: Challenges & Implications for Local Solar Policy

This report discusses the special energy security and stability challenges facing islands and other remote communities, and it explains how these communities can use solar energy systems to reduce energy costs and protect isolated electric grids. The report also highlights the potential complications posed by high solar penetration for isolated grids and concludes with a series of considerations for local policy.

Click HERE to view the report.

Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation in Baltimore’s Low-Income Neighborhoods

This report provides an in-depth analysis of federal, state, and local policies and finance strategies to support solar energy use in combination with energy storage technologies to protect vulnerable populations from grid interruptions. It discusses opportunities to use solar energy systems to power critical public facilities like hospitals, fire stations, gas stations, community shelters, and schools during power outages, and it highlights the benefits of community solar models for bringing the benefits of solar energy use to low-income communities. While primarily focused on Baltimore, most of the recommendations and analysis in this report are applicable to cities across the country.

Click HERE to view the report.

An Introduction to Resilient Power

This Clean Energy Group webinar discusses how power outages can pose special dangers to low-income communities and vulnerable populations, and it explores opportunities for communities to enhance the resilience of critical facilities with technologies such as solar power with battery storage. The webinar also highlights the Clean Energy Group’s resilient power efforts over the past decade.

Click HERE to access the webinar.

Disasters and Energy Security Management

This paper explains how solar PV systems can provide power for emergency response activities following natural or manmade disasters.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Assuring Power in a Disaster and Providing Energy Security

This paper contends that the path to personal and community energy security involves energy conservation measures and the deployment of distributed renewable energy generation facilities, especially solar PV systems.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Renewable Energy and Energy Assurance Planning for Local Governments

This report explains how local governments can build energy resilience, diversify energy portfolios, stabilize energy costs, and reduce reliance upon fossil fuels by promoting local renewable energy investments. It discusses both long-term energy assurance planning as well as strategic short-term investments to protect critical infrastructure.

Click HERE to view the report.

Local Government Energy Assurance Guidelines, Version 2.0

These guidelines provide local governments with a framework for pre-event planning to minimize the disruptive effects of power outages due to disasters or extreme weather. It includes a number of key questions for cities and counties to help them evaluate opportunities to increase local solar energy production to enhance community resilience.

Click HERE to view the guidelines.

Financing for Clean, Resilient Power Solutions

This paper discusses a range of financing mechanisms that have either been used to fund projects that combine solar power with energy storage or are conceptually compatible with these projects. The paper groups these mechanisms under four broad categories: bond financing, public and private ownership structures, clean energy financial institutions, and credit enhancements.

Click HERE to view the paper.

a guide to financing options and funding opportunities to support local government energy assurance planning

This paper provides a primer on financing options and funding opportunities to help local governments pay for capital projects and other initiatives that promote energy assurance. It distinguishes between revenue-generating and value-added investments and provides multiple examples of public- and private-sector financing tools for renewable energy projects.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Using Solar Energy in Emergency Preparedness and Response

Solar PV Emergency & Resiliency Planning

This brief provides a summary of five types of solar PV applications for emergency response and operations following natural disasters or extreme weather events: (1) providing power to emergency shelters; (2) providing power to emergency lighting; (3) providing power to communication devices; (4) providing power to electronic devices in public safety vehicles; and (5) portable systems for onsite or mobile power generation. It includes examples of specific applications used by Boston, New York City, and the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Click HERE to view the brief.

Regional Solar Podcast: Regional Emergency Uses for Solar Technology

In this podcast Jason Halpern and Patrick Murphy, founders of Gridless Power, discuss examples of solar energy use to support regional emergency response and operations efforts with the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC).

Click HERE to access the podcast.

Integration of Solar Energy into Emergency Planning: Final Report

This report presents the results of an analysis of various alternatives for using solar technology to support emergency preparedness and response in New York City. The report’s authors saw solar-powered portable lighting, fold-out panels for ad-hoc use, and solar-powered modular housing as the three most promising applications.

Click HERE to view the report.

Applications of Solar Technology for Catastrophe Response, Claims Management, and Loss Prevention

This report discusses how solar development (including passive solar design and solar energy systems) can make communities more resilient. Specific examples include the role that passive solar design can play in mitigating extreme heat and the use of solar energy systems to power critical infrastructure or provide space or water heat in the aftermath of a disaster. While this report is ostensibly aimed at insurers, the discussion is highly relevant for local policy.

Click HERE to view the report.

Alternative Energy Generation Opportunities in Critical Infrastructure: New Jersey

This report describes the findings from a survey of 640 communities that requested backup energy generation systems from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management following Hurricane Sandy. It includes a series of state and local policy recommendations to promote energy resiliency through increased usage of solar and other renewable energy systems.

Click HERE to view the report.

Deploying Mobile PV Emergency Power System In A Disaster

This paper discusses the basic characteristics of mobile solar power generators and provides examples of how trailer-mounted solar PV systems have been used to power clinics, shelters, radio stations, homes, and other buildings in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Photovoltaics in Disaster Management

This paper discusses the need for electrical power during a disaster and the potential of solar PV systems to fill that need and presents examples how of PV systems have been used in specific disaster relief efforts.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Counting on Solar Power for Disaster Relief

This brief explains the benefits of using portable solar-powered generators in disaster relief situations.

Click HERE to view the brief.

Photovoltaic Applications for Disaster Relief

This report discusses various applications of solar PV technology in disaster response based on examples of solar energy use in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Click HERE to view the report.

Using Solar Energy in Hazard Mitigation and Post-Disaster Recovery

Solar Energy & Resilience Planning: A Practical Guide for Local Governments

This guidebook provides local officials with an overview of local resiliency planning efforts and solar market conditions in the U.S., and it discusses several opportunities for communities to deploy solar technologies to enhance resilience. It includes numerous examples of communities that have used solar energy systems to help mitigate grid disruptions, improve emergency response, and recover more sustainably from disaster.

Click HERE to view the guidebook.

Linking Solar Photovoltaics with Building Disaster-Resistant Communities

This paper, prepared by the City of San Jose in 2000, identifies solar PV as a key component of disaster-relief and focuses on the preferred applications of solar. The paper, which provides examples of solar applications, also examines the local government role and potential for market transformation.

Click HERE to view the report.

Rebuilding After Disaster: Going Green from the Ground Up

This guidebook explains how communities can take advantage of the opportunity to rebuild using renewable energy and energy-efficiency techniques after a disaster. It discusses a range of energy generation and efficiency options to explore in post-disaster redevelopment and includes recommendations to help cities and counties develop an energy plan.

Click HERE to view the guidebook.

Rebuilding It Better: Greensburg, Kansas: High Performance Buildings Meeting Energy Saving Goals

This fact sheet explains how technical assistance from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory helped Greensburg, Kansas, rebuild after a tornado in May 2007. It focuses on the specific energy producing and saving features of multiple buildings, including solar energy systems and passive solar design features.

Click HERE to view the fact sheet.

New York City Department of Design and Construction Building Resilience Database

The solar PV section of this database addresses micro-grids with battery back-up and addresses considerations for solar PV and applications of solar PV.

Click HERE to view the database.

A Stronger, More Resilient New York

The “Utilities” chapter examines the resiliency benefits of neighborhood scale distributed generation installations, including solar PV, and identifies four actions for New York City to take. The plan also notes that this requires further study.

Click HERE to view the report.

The Oregon Resilience Plan: Reducing Risk and Improving Recovery for the Next Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami

This plan looks at how Oregon can build resilience before the next Cascadia earthquake. The plan addresses solar, along with wave and wind energy, as important to both economic and disaster resilience.

Click HERE to view the plan.

Impact of Solar Powered Disaster-Resistant Communities

This paper explains the importance of creating disaster-resistant homes and communities by increasing the use of distributed renewable energy, energy-efficient building designs, and disaster-resistant construction.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Photovoltaic Use In A Disaster: Mitigation Verses Response

This paper explains how energy-efficient buildings with solar PV systems can mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Renewable Energy and Disaster-Resistant Buildings

This paper suggests that buildings that employ construction techniques to withstand natural disasters can be even more resilient by integrating solar energy systems.

Click HERE to view the paper.

Disasters: Photovoltaics for Special Needs

This paper explains how communities can use solar PV systems to help vulnerable populations stay in their homes during power outages.

Click HERE to view the paper.