Rolling Sunlight: Solar Help When Needed

In the ever-changing climate of planet Earth, innovators are constantly trying to come up with new, sustainable ways of powering human life in an attempt to avoid the use of fossil fuels. Solar power is amongst the most pioneering of these developments, drawing energy directly from the sun through a series of solar panels, which is then converted into electricity. Modern housing developments are now often erected with solar panels built into their roofs, and many large businesses use solar power to subsidise their use of electricity.

Natural disasters, such as extreme weather conditions, can often affect the ways in which we receive our power. The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy left thousands of people in New York and the surrounding area without access to electricity, which for many meant no light, heating or cooking facilities. In a desperate situation, help arrived in the form of Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight truck.
Built by Japanese carmaker Isuzu around ten years ago, the truck is mounted with a large collection of solar panels capable of storing up to 50 kilowatt hours of energy. In New York, the truck was brought in to help power a local minimart in Rockaway, where residents who were without power were able to come down, get a hot meal and recharge their cell phones in the warmth of a heated room. The truck powered the shop for more than five days and while there were back-up gas generators on call if necessary, the truck managed to keep things running throughout in a much safer, cleaner way.

The Rolling Sunlight is the only one of its kind in the US and was originally manufactured to highlight how easy and accessible solar power could be on a large scale. Fitted with 256 square feet of solar panels, the truck carries a set of batteries that are charged from the sun. These batteries feed into an inverter that can turn this energy into 120/240 AC; potentially enough energy to power a 240 volt stove.
Though the Rolling Sunlight provides aid for thousands of people stricken by natural disaster, this wasn’t necessarily the original aim Greenpeace set out with. When the truck was originally built, the main objective was to exemplify the ways in which sustainable energy could provide cleaner resources to energy efficient households. By mobilising the technology, Greenpeace were able to showcase the innovation in the hope that people would want to invest in a cleaner, safer solution for their planet.

The threat of global warming is high on the agenda for Greenpeace, so this educational vehicle is something of a crowning jewel. Running on bio-diesel, the truck has been showcased across America over the years in the hope that the US Congress will take more notice of the revolutions being made in alternative energy sourcing. In 2001 the Greenpeace campaigners were in San Francisco, where the Rolling Sunlight powered the Coit Tower for two hours. San Francisco residents are now offered cash incentives to install solar panelling on their home and business buildings.

In recent years, both Apple and Google have spent millions acquiring land to build solar farms in order to power their market-leading companies, with Apple pledging to have its primary data centre running on solar power alone by the end of the year. Elsewhere plans have been given the green light to cover 445 square miles of government land in areas of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado with solar harnessing technology that could provide more than 23000 kilowatts of energy that could in turn power up to 7 million homes. These hotspots are perfectly placed to make the most of the sun’s energy with temperatures in California alone reaching up to 39°C in the summer.

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