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If one were to judge Japanese carmaker, Isuzu, by the most recent news of new-generation trucks in the making and an agreement with GM for the Japanese market, the environment would seem to be pretty low on the agenda.
Willingly or not, however, this manufacturer has recently played a crucial role in awakening an awareness of how important sustainable energy can be to everyone’s life. This was, in fact, thanks to a customised truck which showed up in the streets of hurricane-torn American cities in Sandy’s aftermath, in the first weeks of November last year.
Officially called Rolling Sunlight and affectionately nicknamed Suz, the biodiesel-powered Isuzu truck was a Greenpeace initiative, aiming at relieving many families of problems deriving from power-shortages. Driven around the Queens area of New York and Rockaway by volunteers, Rolling Sunlight was a vital and distinctive presence in the neighbourhoods, making room for 250 square metres of solar panels – a pretty impressive feature for a vehicle of this size.
We’re talking here of a truck which can store up to 50 kilowatt-hours of energy, which makes it work even when the sun is not shining. Such energy is then promptly converted and can be used conveniently from 120 and 240V sockets: locals plug their extensions cords into them and have access to the vital power of electricity.
A big part of Rolling Sunlight’s success was due to Greenpeace’s foresight: the international NGO built the vehicle decade ago, to provide tangible demonstrations across the country of how solar energy can be easily created and converted. Often employed for concerts, food fairs and local attractions, Rolling Sunlight wasn’t initially conceived for environmental emergencies.
But Rolling Sunlight was not the only eco-conscious relief initiative which followed hurricane Sandy: in Rockaway Beach, Greenpeace also used SolaRover and Solar1, two mobile solar lighting units, to bring energy to the people in need, while the New York Department of Transportation provided a solar-powered flood light to keep the medical clinic and kitchen safe at night.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross also distributed solar phone chargers to all those who had not access to electricity. Incredibly reliable, these little chargers could also be used at night and are their functioning doesn’t depend on the weather.
Undoubtedly, these were all initiatives that helped a part of the State of New York’s population get through some difficult times, but it also has to be noted that their scope was narrow, and could only help out a minority of the people affected by the hurricane.
While climate catastrophes are getting all the way more violent and repeatedly hitting several areas worldwide yearly, it is to be hoped that Sandy’s sustainable relief could now be replicated in bigger scale as to be even more effective and inspiring.
If we consider that many areas in developing countries enjoy much better solar exposure than the North of the US, solar energy should no longer be considered an ‘alternative’ in disaster-hit areas.
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