Footprint Project, a small, rapid-response disaster relief operation, recently got a big boost with multinational giant Schneider Electric coming on as a strategic partner to support the organization’s microgrid efforts.
The two pro-microgrid operations plan to act as strategic partners to help when calamities leave communities desperate for electricity.
“As disasters continue to impact people around the world, our hope is that by building communities back greener, we can create long-term resilient solutions to give a sense of relief to those reeling from the unexpected,” said Tom Pitts, safety and environment director of sustainable development for Schneider Electric, one of the most active companies in microgrids worldwide.
Footprint Project, a Minnesota-based nonprofit, has gained a reputation throughout the microgrid community for its quick appearance at disasters with mobile solar-based microgrids.
The organization was quick on the ground in Texas following February’s Winter Storm Uri that left people without electricity — and therefore heat — in some cases for days, in what proved to be record-breaking cold for the state. Footprint Project provided solar to power mobile communication and remote charging needs for emergency workers.
Near the Mexico/US border, Footprint Project built a solar microgrid for a COVID-19 clinic at a camp of about 3,000 asylum seekers, and it has also helped power shelter and communications operations created to address California wildfires. The organization showed up with emergency solar electricity within 24 hours after 200,000 Iowans lost power in August 2020 because of a derecho. Footprint Project also is credited with bringing in some of the first volunteers following the January 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico. Within four hours, Footprint Project was moving a solar trailer toward the epicenter.
“Volunteers believe in this so much, they take it upon themselves to help mobilize solutions and triage resources,” said Will Heegaard, Footprint Project’s founder and operations director.
The Schneider Electric partnership will provide the nonprofit with funds, time, equipment and storage space, which will allow Footprint Project to mobilize in new areas.
Schneider Electric has already donated $50,000 to Footprint Project and is working on a new effort to donate a solar photovoltaic inverter for a solar trailer planned for August in Tennessee. Schneider employees intend to volunteer hours to the Tennessee project.
Schneider also plans to help with other work fixing and maintaining additional trailers that Footprint Project owns. Trailers will be stored at various Schneider facilities and prestaged for natural disasters at impact zones for quick response. The two organizations intend to develop a standardized fleet of equipment that can be offered and maintained in crisis as well as during blue sky events.
Separately, Schneider earlier this year was named in two Microgrid Knowledge Greater Good Awards, a program that honors microgrid projects that stand out for their work providing humanitarian or societal benefits. One award went to a microgrid for a produce market in South Australia and the second to a microgrid for a birthing clinic in Kenya.
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