Footprint Project and SKYCHARGER Support Wildfire Resilience

Dec. 6, 2021 - PRLog -- In the wake of California's catastrophic wildfire seasons, resilience has been a top priority for emergency first responders. Footprint Project, a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization, is working with community resilience partners across California to deploy solar trailers to areas affected by wildfires and PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. Footprint Project's mission is to build back greener after disasters by mobilizing cleaner energy to communities in crisis.

In 2021, Footprint Project received a donation of 13 solar trailers from SKYCHARGER, a leader in the EV charging space. Ten of the donated solar trailers are staged or deployed near high-risk wildfire locations throughout the Pacific Coast. Each SKYCHARGER solar trailer serves as a cleaner and quieter alternative to an 11kW diesel generator. "We selected Footprint Project because they are committed to utilizing the SKYCHARGER solar trailers where they are most needed," said Jeff Zissulis, CEO of SKYCHARGER. "And that is part of our mission too: to bring renewable energy into underserved communities."

The trailers are staged with a wide variety of partners, including farms, makerspaces, youth camps, educational centers, and emergency vehicle and equipment caches - all completely or partially off-grid and located near high-risk wildfire areas. The solar trailer stewards were selected from existing community resilience partners across California with an aptitude for solar technology and requests from Emergency Response Teams. The produced energy is used to power lights, emergency equipment, batteries, tiny-homes, tools, and charge electric vehicles. In addition to being maintained and readied to respond to wildfire or PSPS events, the SKYCHARGER trailers provide educational opportunities for visitors on-premises and at off-site events.

One of the solar trailer staging partners, the Delta Makers Farm, experienced a wildfire that damaged their farmland and education center on October 13th, 2021. The farm members evacuated the farm with the solar trailer and returned to start the recovery and restoration process. The farm's resident pigs create fire breaks throughout their property by grazing the invasive weeds and removing hazardous debris. The cleared land prevented the fire from moving into the forest, saving over 200 nearby residents from experiencing the effects of the fire, but not before it caused damage to the farm structures. The solar trailer is "incredibly useful" in assisting the owners in their recovery efforts. They put a welder on the trailer, which they are using to repair and rebuild the burnt-down structures. At the end of October, Footprint moved their Solar Energy Response Vehicle (SERV), a 32 ft live-in RV to their property to offer lodging support while they rebuild. The rebuild is ongoing.

Another solar trailer was deployed, per request of the Ebbetts Pass Fire Chief, to assist the Emergency Response Teams fighting the Caldor fires threatening South Lake Tahoe. The solar trailer was sent to an off-grid lot in San Andreas where the local Office of Emergency Management stores their emergency vehicles and equipment cache. The trailer is providing the necessary power to help maintain their fleet, charging their batteries, tools, and equipment. It is also providing site illumination in the late afternoon and evening hours for the micro-resilience center with plans to be deployed locally in support of their COVID Testing/Vaccination Team. "We are so fortunate to have this piece of equipment and are always looking for creative ways to support our first responders with it," said John Osbourn, Director of the Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services.

Local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Fire and Police Departments were introduced to the benefits of solar trailers during the Northern Sonoma County Earthquake and Wildfire Safety Expo in August 2021. Some jurisdictions promptly requested solar trailers of their own to deploy during a wildfire event. To date, Footprint Project has outfitted two jurisdictions with solar trailers used to power emergency equipment, deploy during an emergency, and for community emergency educational events. "So in addition to the trailer itself, Footprint has been part of our community education program," said the Northern Sonoma County CERT Lead.

Footprint Project has received many more requests for mobile solar generator support than we can support, and continues to triage needs while preparing for future wildfires.

By providing solar trailers as an alternative power source, cleaner energy can be used to power emergency lighting and equipment, medical devices, and refrigeration. Access to phone and laptop charging also allows affected community members to contact loved ones and file for assistance after a disaster. "Getting solar power into the hands of emergency first responders is a critical step towards closing the negative feedback loop of responding to climate disasters with fossil fuel generators," said Will Heegaard, Footprint Project Operations Director.

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