NEW YORK—On a sunny, calm Wednesday morning, the day before the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, uniformed children and school officials at the Church of God Christian Academy in Far Rockaway, cheered with excitement as Les McCabe, president and CEO of Global Green USA, announced plans to equip the Academy’s gym with advanced energy efficient technologies so it can be powered around the clock in case of emergencies.
Global Green USA in partnership with energy company, National Grid, selected the academy to be the first recipient of a climate resilient disaster preparedness investment, which will be used to transform the gym into a safe haven for disaster-weary residents.
This is “a truly extraordinary partnership that I think exemplifies how community-minded companies can support an innovative nonprofit organization to create what we believe is a model climate resilient program,” McCabe said to thunderous applause.
The academy was chosen because it is located in a community that was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy and one that “exemplifies in our view, some of the best examples of families pulling together to look out for each other,” said McCabe, which is what they did in the aftermath of the storm. The school’s gym served as a place of refuge at that time, but it was not adequately equipped.
National Grid is funding the program with a $1 million donation, which will help create resiliency hubs throughout the heart of low-income communities in New York City. Resiliency hubs are designed to provide emergency light, heat, and power indefinitely after a crisis.
The hubs will be upgraded with advanced energy efficient technologies including gas generators, solar panels, and electric storage systems. “The idea is that 25 percent of their energy usage will come from solar panels so that in time of storms, when they could possibly lose their electric plus lose their gas, those panels should be able to make this a warming center for the community,” said Michael Ruiz, director of community and customer management at National Grid.
McCabe said most solar panels were connected to the grid three years ago, without battery storage so there wasn’t continuous energy support. This time, the solar panels will operate independently to ensure 24-hour resiliency. This is also important because the school will benefit from reduced monthly utility bills, he said.
Global Green USA has more than 20 years experience in creating climate resilient cities, and especially in low-income communities disproportionately impacted by climate change, said McCabe.
The partnership works because the multistate energy company has already been upgrading infrastructures since Hurricane Sandy through its Connect 21 initiative, which has invested $200 million toward rebuilding the entire network of gas pipelines in Breezy Point, Queens, and upgrading parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn that were impacted by the storm.
“Today’s announcement extends our commitment to support local communities as they continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy and will help make them stronger and more resilient,” Ruiz said.
Since 2012, National Grid has made concerted efforts to harden its energy infrastructure to make it more resilient against extreme weather events. Ruiz said historically weather events did not impact the company’s gas infrastructure, but Sandy was very different. There was “varying flooding in areas where there was no flooding [before],” he said, “Water was able to get into our system and damage our system.”
The partners agree that strategically placing climate resiliency hubs now will help these communities better prepare for potential disasters. And McCabe is planning to share this climate resiliency hub example with the rest of the world at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris next month.
It’s “a way others can learn to do things in communities that will make a difference in climate change and resiliency,” he said.