89. Project ME4
Project ME4 addresses three problems: gaps in emergency response infrastructure, gaps in education, and gaps in affordable enterprise.
Project ME4 is designed to demonstrate the flexibility and capability of mobile solar generators in a program that uses the generator as an education and outreach vehicle that can literally be in several places each day of the week, performing in different capacities in each case.
With one flexible platform, a 2.5kW mobile solar generator, Project ME4 addresses three distinct yet related areas. Area 1 is disaster preparedness with a solar generator designed for rapid emergency response to provide the key critical services of power, water and communications when and where needed. Area 2 is education and outreach for one or more groups for the majority of time when the system is not deployed for emergencies. Area 3 is active development of enterprises based on mobile solar power generation.
SolaRover, the manufacturer of our “Mojave-1” solar generator, was formed in response to failures of diesel generators in disasters… particularly Hurricane Katrina. Diesel generators fail on numerous critical occasions due to corroded batteries, lack of periodic readiness testing, inadequate fuel supplies, or inability to refuel and, in most cases, exacerbated by the high cost of fuel, especially in emergency situations.
The “FEMA Model” of warehousing generators in case of emergencies makes some sense in light of the cost of burning relatively expensive fuel compared to the cost of normal grid power. However, in the case of solar generators, this model makes no sense, as there is little or no “fuel” cost. Solar PV generators are capable of producing power during sunny and even overcast days, on most days of the year, storing that energy in on-board battery banks for overcast days, inclement weather and night.
Given this low-cost power generation capability, solar generators can be positioned at schools, fire and police stations, and many other possible locations to provide a near-constant, low-cost power source, and thereby be maintained in readiness in case of emergency to deploy to locations of greatest need.
In the case of Project ME4, our mobile solar generator can be deployed to several locations each day to perform a variety of tasks and outreach events. We have interest from disaster response agencies to use it for outreach and training; we have interest from entrepreneurs to test it in use as a business model; we have interest in the unit as an outreach and demonstration platform for the DIY / Maker movement; and we have our own interest in developing enterprise models akin to the well-known “bookmobile” concept.
With the addition of auxiliary wind and backup generators, communications links to the Internet and emergency frequencies, a high-efficiency water purification unit, medical refrigeration, and video monitors, one unit can demonstrate and support a myriad of uses in a wide range of applications for numerous users.
The National Disaster Resiliency Center on Moffet Field, along with its R&D partner, Carnegie Melon Silicon Valley, expressed interest in using a water-purification-equipped unit to both demonstrate and train for disaster scenarios, with their #1 priority being access to water in major disasters.
The founders and staff of Make Magazine have given their blessing for our group to do outreach for the annual Maker Faire and other “mini” Maker Faires through hands-on workshops and curated exhibits representing various makers.
Their is a small consortium representing air, water and soil quality interested in mobile sampling and evaluation.
A number of local electric vehicle manufacturers and clubs are interested in the mobile solar generator as a charging station.
A certain city Office of Emergency Services is interested in a mobile solar generator to power its Mobile Emergency Operations Center on deployments longer than a few hours to save energy (and fuel), test related technologies, and monitor outcomes for emergency scenarios.
There are schools and homeschoolers and STEM educators interested in our solar generator as a mobile education platform. We are also working on hands-on courses that enhance online courseware such as Khan Academy.
In each case, advertising and sponsorship income can supplement other revenue streams from classes, workshops, talk series and rental of the unit for special events. Using multiple video screens or video walls, ad messaging and sponsor “brandishing” can change constantly relevant to the activity or during transit, and can still be used for showing videos, large-audience video presentations, classroom screens and so on.
The more money we raise to do this pilot project, and the more partners interested in hosting a particular function or using it on a particular day, the more the technology can be tested and the more people can be reached by innovative programs.
Lastly, Project ME4 is eminently scalable by the deployment of additional mobile solar generators, each optimized for a specific location with its own group of supporting agencies and enterprises. We have estimated our pilot Project could easily impact 10,000 people in the Bay Area alone over the course of one year. One mobile solar generator in a similar program in each of about half of US cities could impact 100 million people. That scale in ten countries could impact a billion people.
How do we know this? Recently, a solar generator was deployed to the Rockaways in New York shortly after Superstorm Sandy to simply provide emergency electrical power. In just one month of operation, thousands of people were helped from charging cell phones to powering a gas station to running a hot food kitchen to operating a medical clinic to lighting for safety.
Why it should be recognized:
Project ME4 is unique in its approach. Instead of simply trying to sell mobile solar generator units, the business model most manufacturers are using [to poor effect], ME4 is focused on the optimum and maximum use of just one unit.
In the past two years ME4 has been building a coalition of nonprofits, companies and local government agencies who have expressed interest in employing the Project’s MSG to learn about its capabilities or to use it as an outreach platform… or both.
By using one, flexible platform to demonstrate a now-proven technology in many different scenarios, Project ME4 intends to prove its worth to the Bay Area community at large.
On one platform, we can share and demonstrate the renewable energy technologies of solar and wind, provide mobile communications between non-fixed sites, purify water for drinking, power refrigeration for emergency medical supplies, teach hands-on classes and workshops, demonstrate the development of solar-powered several enterprises.
In short: More Bang for the Buck.
The goal of Project ME4 is to demonstrate the mobile solar generator as a valuable asset for the community while operating as a sustainable enterprise.