Solar Keeps Slawson Place Powered Up During Katrina

Bart Slawson shocked many fellow Alabamians when he became the first person in the state to power his home with energy from the sun in 2001 (read the story).

But when Hurricane Katrina showed up last summer, it was his turn to be surprised.

As the devastating hurricane passed over Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 29, 2005, Slawson was worried that his PV panels would be damaged by the strong winds. However, when grid power went out later that night, Slawson’s 16 Kyocera 120 modules and 185aH gel batteries from Gaiam Real Goods continued to supply him with reliable energy.

“Compared to 300,000 Alabama residents who had no power during the worst Alabama Power infrastructure damage in history, we haven’t a care in the world,” Slawson wrote in an email during the aftermath. “The incredible Real Goods system is running our essential loads.”

If the neighbors didn’t know about Slawson’s PV system before the hurricane, “they definitely noticed” after it, he says. “In some parts of our county, power was out for weeks.”

Although his primary reason for going solar was to stop supporting coal power, he says disaster survival played a part in his decision as severe storms inevitably knock out power in this region several times every summer. Now he hopes many others can benefit from the sustainable power of PV systems.

“I wish they could install thousands of these systems along the Gulf Coast to get ready for next season,” Slawson says. “Because we had ours, our only life disruption was no air conditioning.”


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