For Earth Day: Solar Help From Hurricane Devastation

As we honor Mother Earth on this her day, let us remember that she can be a bit cruel at times. Like knocking out power via a hurricane.

It tends to happen in Houston every once in a while, and the University of Houston and the city have teamed up to try to alleviate the ensuing emergency.

UH's Green Building Components at the Hines School of Architecture has taken used shipping containers -- the kind you see on big ships and attached to 18-wheelers -- and turned them into movable, solar-powered emergency stations that can power emergency services.

Of course, there's an acronym involved: SPACE. or Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone.

"The top priority for these SPACE units will be to power critical devices," said Joe Meppelink, UHGBC director. "Following Hurricane Ike, medicines required refrigeration and crucial medical devices could not be recharged. SPACE units will be used to accommodate these kinds of needs."

During non-emergency times, which one hopes would be 99 percent of the time, the units will serve as educational and community centers. They can be transported anywhere across the city with flatbed trucks or even helicopters, if there are floods. It takes two people only a half-hour to set one up after it's been delivered.

The $1.35 million program to build 17 SPACE units came from the city via a grant from the state's Energy Conservation Office.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly