Solar for Sandy: Making East Coast Cities More Resilient

When Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of the East Coast last year, it left a lasting impact on both the landscape and the psyche of residents of the region. While many of the physical structures have been repaired, it will take longer for people to recover emotionally. Global Green USA has experience responding to the kind of damage wrought by Sandy. In 2005, we began executing a bold plan and mobilized resources – over $20 million in direct investment -- to implement green rebuilding strategies after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In that process, Global Green also leveraged and impacted related investments (i.e., government, philanthropic, and private of at least $3 billion and likely much, much more), public conversation, and media coverage about climate change, green building, and energy.

With a focus on our most vulnerable communities, Global Green is taking a similar approach in New York and New Jersey to mitigate – and prepare for - the growing impacts of climate change, sea level rise, and weather variability.

Global Green is implementing 3 initial strategies in our Solar for Sandy initiative:

  • Community Resiliency – installing 5 back-up, grid tied solar systems at community centers to provide both reliable power in emergencies and reduce ongoing electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Citizen Entrepreneurs (Citizens for Sandy) – identifying and supporting local citizens’ ideas for green rebuilding with micro-grants and technical assistance.
  • Green planning for rebuilding of neighborhoods – providing assistance to communities via policies, financing, communications, and community engagement tactics.

IMPACTS

COMMUNITY RESILIENCY The selected community centers will get the financial benefit of an on grid solar electric system, which means these community centers will be able to redirect their utility operations expenses to community benefit throughout the year for 20+ years. Additionally, these centers will be “disaster ready” with back-up power generation to provide lighting, refrigeration for food and medicine, mobile charging capacity, and basic heating and cooling. In exchange, each center selected commits to ongoing community education and outreach on climate change and disaster readiness, and commits to serve their community in times of disaster.

CITIZEN ENTREPRENEURS (CITIZENS FOR SANDY) When Global Green launched our national Citizen Entrepreneur initiative, we wanted to call upon individuals to take responsibility for a corner of their world. In our first citizen entrepreneur search, we wanted to find and support local green heroes by offering a $1,000 micro grant to one winner. In the end, we received more than 130 nominations, and received an outpouring of public support – more than 4,000 people voting for their favorites – during the voting phase. We are currently executing a search for a “Citizen Sandy” green hero who is making a difference in the region affected by the hurricane. To apply, go to Citizen Sandy Search.

GREEN PLANNING FOR REBUILDING OF NEIGHBORHOODS Global Green is working in New York and New Jersey communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy by modifying the Sustainable Neighborhood Assessment approach to focus on ways to increase resiliency and climate change adaptation. Green Urbanism Program staff visited Richmond Terrace on the North Shore of Staten Island, where the objective was to protect historical maritime businesses while also addressing a shortage of parks and history of industrial impact on nearby residences. One concept that emerged is to interweave the maritime uses with a series of pocket parks that can absorb storm water during future rain events. The second community was the southeastern portion of Hoboken, New Jersey. This neighborhood experiences frequent small scale flooding during heavy rain events and has a number of historic townhouses with basement apartments. Some of the ideas put forward are to remodel the basement units with water resistant materials and to add landscaped parkways, swales, and rain gardens whenever possible to improve water management during both small and large storm events. The final reports and recommendations will be completed by early October and shared with the communities, and staff from the EPA, FEMA, and HUD involved in Sandy rebuilding and climate adaptation.

To help us rebuild green in the NY/NJ region go to Solar for Sandy support.