Eight out of 15 deaths in Hurricane Laura on the US’s Gulf Coast were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, as NPR wrote in September. And that’s not an isolated incident — 85% of all carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in the US are caused by portable generators because people mistakenly run them indoors or in their garage when they lose power.

Mark Rabin is the CEO of Vancouver, BC-based Portable Electric, which manufactures emissions-free mobile power stations — green generators — that run on solar and li-ion batteries. Rabin spoke with Electrek via email about the role electric generators can play in natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes and how vital it is to switch to electric generators and off fossil-fuel-powered generators overall, as quickly as possible.

Michelle Lewis: Are you sending electric generators to Louisiana in order to help those who have lost power during Hurricane Delta? (Ed. note: Nearly 700,000 lost power from the latest storm in a record-breaking hurricane season that isn’t over yet.)

Mark Rabin: At this point, we unfortunately do not have plans to send equipment down to Louisiana. Doing a deployment of this magnitude requires partner organizations on the ground and some amount of preplanning and staging of the equipment in advance of hurricane season.

We are looking into what supporting hurricane relief in 2021 looks like. This means we’re looking at potential partner organizations, the logistics of how to get equipment staged in key locations, and identifying support crews. 

Currently, we are fully committed to the relief efforts in California to support PG&E and its most vulnerable customers [in the wildfires]. We aim to make Public Safety Power Shutoff events easier by providing portable batteries to customers who rely on medical equipment to live. This will not only improve life quality but save lives. 

We also want to emphasize the need to move away from the old technology, which has been part of the problem for the past 100 years. We are seeing a greater frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and there’s every indication that this is the new normal. It’s therefore paramount that we prepare for the response efforts and invest in mobile, regenerative infrastructure that can provide clean power and save lives, like our VOLTstack solar generators

Portable Electric VOLTstacks

Can you tell us more about Portable Electric’s role in today’s energy market?

Portable Electric fills an important role in offering clean,  solar backup power for off-grid support when there’s no longer access to the grid. These applications are traditionally filled by gas generators, which have issues with carbon monoxide poisoning, and limited access to the fuel supply chain in the aftermath of a disaster. 

We’re engineering serious machines here, designed for the harshest and most rugged industrial applications. Our VOLTstack e-Generators have the fastest solar charging [2.5 hours] in the portable industrial category and can power all types of appliances, such as communications, pumps, lighting, fridges, clinics, and command centers, without the need for a fossil fuel generator. In addition, our units can act as a mobile UPS [uninterruptible power supply] as backup for sensitive equipment that requires continuous power.

What impact will green generators have on the world amid natural disasters?

Portable Electric has been leading the charge in the transition from fossil fuel generators, to clean energy power systems — electrifying the industry. We’ve made it accessible to organizations big and small who would never have had the opportunity to rent or own this new and much more efficient technology. 

All of our electric generators come with onboard telematics and real-time power management via the VOLTstack app, allowing the user to know exactly how much power they are using and how much time left per charge, or how long it will take to charge from solar — even where all of their units are located.

This is a game-changer for disaster emergency relief, as traditional generators have zero intelligence, and we are producing some of the first energy data sets from disaster zones.

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