Sioux City, IA — A new technology built in Sioux City, with the help from students at Iowa State University, has the potential to transform the way communities respond during natural disasters. Iowa is facing an increasing number of natural disasters such as flooding and the recent derecho, which tore through the central part of the state leaving a path of destruction and residents without power for several weeks.
The Solar Power SunCrate is a 20-foot shipping container that uses solar PV panels, inverters and batteries to store and provide electric power when traditional power grids are down. The mobile unit is designed with charging outlets on the outside for people to plug in their phones, electric cars and other items they may need during a catastrophic event. The crate can even provide energy for heating or cooling care facilities, like hospitals as well as other community facilities.
As SunCrate Energy’s CEO Dolf Ivener recently said:
Mobile microgrids are a game changer that utilize innovations in battery technology and can work with an existing power grid or without one. That flexibility will significantly improve how we confront the immediate aftermath of a devastating storm or other natural disaster.
In June of 2019, Iowa State University engineering students, working in partnership with SunCrate Energy, received a $172,000 grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to develop a solar power crate. The goal of the project is to explore a resource that could add a level of resiliency to communities and utilities across the state, while also becoming a tool that could be utilized immediately in the event of natural disasters and emergency management scenarios.
Debi Durham, executive director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority, said recent natural disasters in Iowa prompted the IEDA to find solutions to the challenges these disasters create:
We believe this mobile energy unit has the potential to forever impact the way Iowa and the rest of the nation will handle natural disasters in the future. We’re Iowans. Stepping up to the plate is what we do best.
The IEDA Energy Office has federal funds available for projects assisting with Iowa Energy Plan implementation, and the key focus areas of that plan. The many aspects of the Solar Power SunCrate project ranging from resiliency to energy storage, and more, made it a good candidate to receive supportive funding.