Company gives power to people after Sandy

SolaRover generator brings electricity to multiple sites

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On the other side of the country, a generator supplied by a Lone Tree company is quietly making a difference to those left homeless, hurt and temporarily without power by Hurricane Sandy.

John Spisak took one of his company’s mobile solar generators to the East Coast about two weeks after disaster struck. He returned to Lone Tree recently, but left the generator there. It will stay until at least early January, when donated funds supporting its use likely will run dry.

“There are infinite needs,” said Spisak, director of SolaRover. “We could probably have taken 100 units to the East Coast if we’d had them.”

The SolaRover was put to immediate use when it arrived in New York, and has been in near-constant use.

“It’s powered one of the only stores in (an area) that had fresh food,” Spisak said. “It helped not only power, but shelter a street kitchen that was set up to feed hundreds of needy people three meals a day. It’s powered a volunteer center. It’s powered several apartments. It powered part of a church complex and a Thanksgiving Day dinner. It’s now in New Jersey for the second time powering a U.S. Park Service office, and some Army outbuildings associated with it.”

Representatives of Greenpeace did not return calls for comment, but expressed their gratitude for the generator on the organization’s blog.

“Over two weeks … we’ve worked with Occupy Sandy to set up food, clothing and resource distribution sites, medical clinics, communications hubs — all with solar power,” read the Nov. 15 entry. “Thousands of people have used the solar cells to call loved ones from newly charged phones or just used the flood lights to stand and talk to neighbors. Though the power demands from the relief effort here in Rockaway Beach are intense, we haven’t had any problems.”

Solar-powered units cost significantly less to run than the diesel generators serving much of the area. One medical clinic was spending $200 a day on fuel for its generator, Spisak said. By contrast, the SolaRover is a hybrid, with a diesel generator built in to take over when batteries are low or in inclement weather.

“Our unit’s been in operation for three weeks,” he said. “The (diesel) generator has only run a total of 12 hours and the tank is half full.”

A New Jersey-based emergency response firm, Louis Berger Corp., paid for the generator’s transportation to the East Coast. SolaRover is covering the remainder, which adds up to between $3,000 and $4,000 a month in truck rental fees, tolls, fuel and other needed support.

While Spisak said he’s happy to help, he feels frustrated by the situation.

“We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The government response was just not adequate. We had been trying for a long time to get (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other government authorities to work with us to be proactively prepared. We’ve never had any success. Nobody gets excited until after the fact and then it’s too late. Hopefully we can educate public officials that what they should be doing is deploying systems like this in advance of these storms.”

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