Beyond food, water, and clothing, research suggests that one of the most important needs during disaster response and recovery is electricity. Power plays a crucial role in one’s disaster management, response, and recovery plan as emergency response teams need a reliable source of electric power to deal with the crisis at hand.
“To restore critical infrastructure, reliable power is a must. One underestimated area of destruction that presents a major barrier to recovery is [a] widespread power outage. Power reliability is a basic need for disaster-affected communities, right alongside medical care, water, and food,” President and CEO of PW Power Systems Raul Pereda was quoted as saying in an article.
It has been evident in the past that whenever disasters happen in the Philippines, electricity shuts down for days or months, depending on the nature of the disaster and where it struck. As a consequence, all human, economic, and business activities are disrupted. When Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in 2013, for instance, Life halted as power and communication lines were obstructed for days.
The recent eruption of Taal Volcano also seemed to have put life on hold as power distribution circuits were knocked down by the ash fall, affecting human, economic, and business endeavors in Southern Luzon.
Amidst these phenomena, and despite the availability of resources and facilities, power generation is still not in the list of both local and national administration’s disaster response and recovery plans.
But if we were to talk about addressing this gap, the probable solution is solar energy and solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
Solar energy is said to be excellent in providing accessible, sustainable, and clean power to consumers; thus, reflecting deductions in their electricity bills. Moreover, the solar PV systems are said to be quiet, unobtrusive, low maintenance, and, of course, environmentally-friendly.
In the face of disasters and calamities, the resilience of solar power for both small-scale and large-scale arrangements are said to be of great help. Solar storage systems are relatively tied down, with no pipes, tubes, or lines to leak or break; thus, providing backup battery, solar, and energy storage that can generate power and electricity even during a storm.
One research suggested utilizing mobile PV systems to supply power during the aftermath of disasters and calamities. The idea was to mount PV systems on low trailers that can be moved anywhere they are needed. This innovation was first used during the relief operations of Hurricane Hugo in Cape Verde back in 1988. It was then used in many disaster response and recovery operations such as the Northridge earthquake in 1991, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Bonnie in August 1988, Hurricane Georges in September 1988, Hurricane Charlie in 20014, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In the last decade or so, the concept of “the resilient community” has become popular; but, unfortunately, the urgent need for electricity access is hardly considered during preparations against disasters.
Thus, may our call-to-action be to further expand disaster resilience in all communities not only to restore their economic and social viability following disasters but to also ensure that the negative experiences of those affected do not worsen.
Tapping into renewable sources, especially solar energy, can not only reduce power supply issues during these phenomena but can also increase the safety of and give assurance to those affected by these disasters and calamities; and utilizing, maximizing, and including the use of solar energy and solar PV systems in one’s disaster response and recovery plans can improve community resilience by providing communities with backup power even if the electricity from the grid is not restored.