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Rising to the Challenge: Home Free


walter meyer

Solar power played a crucial role in the recovery of the Rockaway peninsula during Hurricane Sandy.

Leading the solar recovery effort was a non-profit, Power Rockaways Resilience (PRR) whose founders include three urban sustainability designers, engineers, and technical experts: Walter Meyer,Jennifer Bolstad, and R. David Gibbs. They formed the organization to help the Rockaway community in the aftermath of the storm by quickly deploying solar and other renewable off-grid technologies to help restore power. 

Two days after Hurricane Sandy hit, the group delivered the first of several hand-built, shopping-cart-sized solar generators to the hardest-hit blocks of the Rockaways. Within minutes, these generators were charging cell phones, laptops, and small power tools to get Rockaway Beach residents connected and rebuilding. Their efforts soon scaled up so that large-scale solar generators were able to be delivered to relief centers and volunteer hubs, providing enough power to keep these crucial centers up and running  

In April 2013, The White House recognized PRR with a “Champions of Change” award for helping to rebuild a more resilient Rockaway Beach with the Hurricane Sandy. (You can read more from Walter Meyer in his inspiring White House blog post.)

The use of solar to keep lights shining and helping hands working throughout the darkest days of the storm has inspired peninsula-wide interest in alternative energy technologies

- Walter Meyer, Home Free Space Solutions

PRR continues to serve the Rockaway community, offering energy analysis for small businesses across the peninsula to help them prepare before another emergency strikes and advocating for resilient solutions. Solar generators have since been upgraded to permanent installations that can supplement the grid with resilient and renewable energy. 

As one of eleven winning teams in our RISE : NYC competition, the Home Free team will share up to $30 million with the other winners to take their idea to the next level and implement its suite of technologies at Sandy-impacted small businesses across the peninsula. 

Over the next few weeks, our blog series, Rising to the Challenge, will share the stories of each of the eleven innovative resiliency technologies. Read on for this week's profile of Home Free.

Basic Facts

Name of Winning RISE : NYC Technology: Home Free Safe Space Solution

About: Home Free is a suite of renewable energy technologies that will be custom-installed for small businesses in the Rockaways after analyzing individual businesses' sites and energy needs.

Team: Walter Meyer and Jennifer Bolstad, who run Local Office Landscape and Urban Design, and engineer R. David Gibbs

Benefit: Provides renewable energy technology at no cost to local businesses, allowing businesses to keep power and functionality during power interruptions. It also supports economic resiliency by reducing energy cost and overhead, minimizing reliance on fossil fuels and the grid, and allowing businesses to stay financially viable and offer jobs in the community. 

Technology Category: Energy Technologies, technologies in this category help small businesses keep the lights on and open for business, even when the power grid is down

An Interview with Home Free


What mechanics went into developing your technology? 

Home Free is unique among the RISE : NYC grantees in that it’s not a single technology. Home Free is a "kit of parts" for resilient and renewable energy and heat production. We draw on the expertise of engineers and system designers to assess energy needs and  identify businesses that can serve as beacons for the larger community in times of emergency. 

Each customized solution could include hybrid on-and off-grid solar electric generators, wind micro-turbines, solar thermal systems, geothermal power, tankless hot water heaters, and mobile phone boosters.

What type of small businesses/buildings will benefit most from your technology? 

Home Free can benefit any local business in the Rockaways, particularly those with big utility bills. Every site and business will have unique needs and opportunities based on the kind of business and the location’s geography. Home Free will help businesses identify the best solutions and then install that technology.

Home Free draws on its team members’ years of experience with many renewables, ideal for different settings. This level of expert analysis may not be accessible to small businesses, so Home Free will allow these businesses to implement customized systems designed to keep heat and power during emergencies and to reduce utility bills year-round.

r david gibbs home free

How do programs like RISE : NYC support innovation and climate adaptive technologies like yours? 

Home Free supports the effective and efficient adoption of renewable technologies, guided by the team’s broad experience bringing renewable systems to communities. These well-designed systems will showcase the many benefits of renewables on the local scale, particularly for small businesses.

Many businesses are interested in climate adaptive technologies but are unable to take the risk of changing their facilities with unknown results and without the guidance of experts who are technology-agnostic - that is, they look for the best solution to an individual's needs rather than advocate for a particular manufacturer or technology. RISE : NYC allows local businesses to adopt these technologies in the spirit of innovation.

Learn more about Home Free here.

About the Rising to the Challenge series: Eleven innovative resiliency technologies are helping to build a stronger, more resilient New York. What are they and who are the companies behind them?

This blog series shares the stories of each of the winning RISE : NYC technologies and the impact they will have on businesses and communities in New York City. Read all profiles here



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