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Solar Power SunCrate: A New Tool in Natural Disaster Response

January 5, 2021

Solar Power SunCrate: Mobile Power Source Innovation

Solar Power SunCrate
Photo by Omar de-Kok Mercado

A mobile power source has the potential to transform the way states, communities and utilities respond during natural disasters. The Solar Power SunCrate built and manufactured in Sioux City, Iowa with help from students at Iowa State University, is a portable, scalable renewable energy system.

The 20-foot shipping container uses solar PV panels, inverters and batteries to store and provide electric power when traditional power grids are down.

“Mobile microgrids are completely viable and are a game changer, you no longer have to build a permanent structure,” explained Dolf Ivener, the CEO and founder of SunCrate Energy. “In the past five years, batteries have become giants, it’s what’s going to move the world forward in transportation, so we just followed along that road.”

How Does the Solar Power SunCrate Work?

Solar Power SunCrate
Photo by Omar de-Kok Mercado

The Solar Power SunCrate can be transported to a central location in a community, like city hall or the middle of a disaster zone. It 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.

“The beauty of the system is that it can work with an existing power grid or without one, so it’s a great asset for a utility company,” Ivener said. “It’s a mobile grid asset.”

A Game-Changer in Natural Disaster Response

Debi Durham, executive director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority, said recent natural disasters in the state such as the destructive August derecho, 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,” Durham explained. “We’re Iowans. Stepping up to the plate is what we do best.”

Iowa Energy Office Support

"This project is just the type of innovative model to further solidify our state's national energy leadership." Debi Durham, Executive Director of IEDA/IFA

In June of 2019, Iowa State University engineering students, working in partnership with SunCrate Energy, received a $172,000 grant from IEDA to develop a solar power crate with the goal of exploring 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.

“This project is just the type of innovative model to further solidify our state’s national energy leadership,” Durham stated

The IEDA Iowa 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 to diverse Iowa partners and more, made it a good candidate to receive supportive funding.

The capabilities the mobile unit provides has initiated conversations with energy stakeholders as well as educational opportunities to learn more about this technology and future use applications.