NRG vehicle uses solar power to provide disaster relief (photos)

Mention Hurricane Ike to anyone who lives on the mainland, and the subject immediately turns to days spent without electricity.

Ten days? Twelve? Charging cell phones and checking email became the new necessities.

“If you can’t contact someone quickly, they get upset,” said Fran Sullivan, senior vice president of plant operations at NRG Energy — which operates electric power plants and is the parent company of the retail electric provider Reliant Energy.

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NRG Tuesday rolled out Power2Serve, a 68-foot disaster relief vehicle and trailer designed to offer immediate portable power in areas hit by a disaster.

The  system, powered by a 10 kilowatt solar array, includes 100 charging stations for cell phones, cameras, tools and power equipment, and provides WiFi service and flat screen televisions so residents to catch up with news and weather forecasts.

It can be air conditioned or heated.

In addition to the solar array, the system includes a battery that can store solar power for about two hours and a 20 kilowatt diesel generator.

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Sullivan said NRG began thinking about a service project after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast last fall —and ultimately designed the mammoth support vehicle intended to supplement other relief efforts.

Scott McQueen, senior director of NRG’s maintenance services, said NRG CEO David Crane’s “original vision was a used Winnebago where you could cruise around neighborhoods, charging people’s phones.”

“We upsized the vision,” he said.

NRG spokesman David Knox said the company would not disclose the cost of the project.