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Solar Energy as a Key Resource in Disaster Relief: Applications in Crisis Areas

2023-11-08

Solar Energy as a Key Resource in Disaster Relief: Applications in Crisis Areas

Solar energy has now found its way into many aspects of life, from personal scales integrated into backpacks to television remote controls. Solar cells are ubiquitous. It makes sense to use solar energy in disaster relief when a catastrophe occurs. But what exactly is a catastrophe? The definition is not entirely clear-cut. The general rule of disaster relief institutions is: when the extent of the damage reaches a level where conventional emergency services or firefighters are no longer sufficient, disaster relief comes into play. Disaster relief can be deployed both domestically and internationally.

Overview: How Solar Energy Can Help in Emergency Situations

At this point, a distinction must be made between natural disasters and technical disasters. Natural disasters can include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, floods, and the like. However, even in our civilized world, a widespread power outage can trigger a catastrophe. Many people and institutions depend on electricity, and its failure can have severe consequences, especially for patients reliant on medical equipment.

Especially in challenging terrain far from civilization, being able to charge battery-powered devices at a mobile charging station can be helpful. Communication can also be maintained for an extended period if the charging station, for example, can be recharged via foldable solar panels.

Use of Solar Panels in Areas Affected by Natural Disasters

Areas that have experienced a major natural disaster, such as floods or earthquakes, are often cut off from the public power supply afterward. In these cases, mobile solar solutions are often the only way to provide short-term and comparatively cost-effective assistance. Solar panels in crisis areas are, therefore, an essential component to pave the way for and expedite the return to normalcy. A significant advantage of solar panels and mobile solar solutions for disaster relief is the simplicity of the technology. There are no moving parts, and maintenance is minimal. Additionally, the systems are hail-proof and generally less prone to failures. As long as the connections are not interrupted, and the solar panels are properly aligned and clean, the system should function flawlessly. The prerequisite is, of course, always free access to sunlight.

Innovative Solar Solutions for Mobile and Flexible Applications

Through solar technology, it is possible to install surveillance systems, for example, that would only function for a limited duration with simple battery solutions. Forest areas can be monitored using mobile forest fire sensors that, in emergencies, send the right signals to the control center. In this way, forest fires can be detected early, and emergency responders can promptly try to avoid significant damage to the forest and human life. The same principle is applied in earthquake-prone areas, near volcanoes, and in many other locations considered vulnerable. Here, solar energy helps provide rapid emergency assistance.

Taking it a step further, and quite literally mobile, is a mobile app that has been in use since 2016, reporting earthquakes using the sensors built into the mobile phone. In this way, the phone acts as a seismograph.

In essence, all forms of measuring devices can and will be operated using solar energy in combination with rechargeable batteries. This allows for monitoring air composition, tilt angles, measuring water levels, and much more.

Case Studies: Successful Applications of Solar Energy in Crisis Situations

Mobile solar streetlights, used during the flood catastrophe in the Aartal by the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, help ensure well-lit streets at night, allowing vehicles to move as safely as possible in disaster areas. The mobile streetlights are equipped with powerful and energy-efficient LED technology, with the battery charging through a connected solar panel. This is a good example of the use of solar technology in natural disasters because it shows that other technologies have also evolved, and these modern technologies, when combined, are powerful and suitable for professional use. High-efficiency solar panels, durable batteries, and energy-efficient bright LED lights make it possible.

Another example of solar energy in disaster relief is its deployment in conflict zones. War zones are regularly affected by power outages with sometimes catastrophic consequences. Hospitals in such cases often rely on the support of generators. However, generators consume fossil fuels, and their use should be minimized to save precious fuel. Especially in war-torn areas in the Middle East, which receive ample sunlight throughout the year, solar power offers a solution. The Syria Solar project addresses this problem precisely and has already equipped a hospital in the destroyed city of Aleppo with a solar installation capable of covering about 20 to 30 percent of the daily electricity needs. This can save around 60,000 liters of diesel fuel per year that would otherwise be used to operate diesel generators. The energy costs saved amount to about 40 to 45 percent.

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