Tuesday Dec 06, 2022

These 2 organizations acted quickly to provide solar microgrids to Ukraine – Microgrid Knowledge


“We have to do something,” Will Heegaard, operations manager for Footprint Project — a nonprofit that provides solar microgrids and other emergency power systems to disaster areas — told Paul Shmotolokha just hours after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Eric Youngren, New Use Energy’s vice president of product development, changes a unit to the Ukrainian voltage and frequency. Courtesy of Footprint Project

Heegaard and Shmotolokha — a Ukrainian-American and CEO of New Use Energy — are no strangers to disaster. New Use Energy provides solar microgrids, solar headlamps, humanitarian aid and other products to regions hit by hurricanes and other crises, often supplying emergency power systems to Footprint Project. With the help of New Use Energy and others, Footprint Project has jumped into action to provide solar generators for communities affected by Hurricane Ida, for desperate Texans during the state’s February 2021 deep freeze and other crises.

But Ukraine was a whole new world for the pair, who have only operated abroad a few times.

“Will called me at 7 a.m. after the war started,” said Shmotolokha, whose wife was born in Ukraine. “Will and I knew this would be very big.”

Very big indeed were the challenges the pair faced, including attracting funding, shipping units classified as hazardous materials and finding trusted sources in Europe to provide equipment.

They got to work developing a coalition of non-profit, government and corporate partners. Global Empowerment Mission and SmartAid, both global relief organizations, stepped up to bolster the effort, and Shmotolokha’s friends and family in the region offered critical insight into needs on the ground.

Serving refugees and hospitals

That morning, the pair developed a plan to send solar microgrids to Ukrainian hospitals and emergency power equipment to a refugee camp in neighboring Moldova. In these areas, grid power is generally not available because of the war’s devastation. (PowerOutage.com has begun tracking grid outages in Ukraine.) Gas- and diesel-fired generators are being used as backup power, spewing pollution and noise. What’s more, it’s difficult and dangerous to acquire fuels for the backup generators, said Shmotolokha.

The solar generators are especially helpful in refugee camps, where they offer a quieter and cleaner alternative to fossil fuel generators, which can undermine the mental and physical health of refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Shmotolokha. Solar generators are also essential in medical facilities, where they can provide clean energy to staff members needing electricity for light, communications gear and life-saving equipment.

This week, Footprint Project and New Use Energy sent six pallets of portable solar microgrid equipment to Ukraine to power medical lighting and communications equipment. The two organizations are also sending to medical facilities 120 small portable power stations — handheld units that include batteries and an inverter. Thanks to a $25,000 matching grant from Mac6–which provides co-working space for businesses, Footprint Project is preparing follow-up initiatives for the region in the coming weeks and months.

A separate shipment from Global Empowerment Mission and SmartAid included 64 surgical headlamps for use in hospitals. And yet another included handheld solar lighting solutions and connectivity hardware.

Heegaard and Shmotolokha have a bigger vision for helping Ukraine — and, eventually, other countries — during disasters and wars. They want to train local people to assemble and maintain the solar microgrids and emergency power systems, which, …….

Source: https://microgridknowledge.com/solar-microgrids-ukraine-footprint-project/

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