Saturday, January 7, 2017

Best of SunRunr 2016: A Year of Global Solutions

The three-person team behind SunRun of Virginia Inc., Alan Mattichak, Jenny French and Scott French. Photo courtesy Mark Rhodes and Virginia Business magazine.
In 2004, SunRunr began as a spark of an idea.  Now just twelve years later, our portable Solar + Storage generator systems are making a global impact.  From Virginia to the South Pacific, our systems are providing off-grid, supplemental, and backup power to homes and businesses.  2016 was a year that highlighted our three key passions: providing portable renewable energy solutions, championing discussions on energy issues and policy, and raising public awareness of sustainability and preparedness. 

Portable Renewable Energy Solutions
Photo credit Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA
In the SunRunner Sphere Blog this past year, we shared how SunRunr owners around the world are Using the 4 Phases of Emergency Management to Weather a Power Outage. SunRunr owner, Andrew P., gave us a front row seat in this video he recorded as Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean.  “Here we are in the middle of Hurricane Matthew,” Andrew reported. “But the good thing is that we have the SunRunr generator here giving us light, powering the refrigerator, and running some fans.”

In calmer but uniquely difficult waters, our partners Alternative Energy, Inc. incorporated a SunRunr generator within a custom, off-grid solar solution on the island nation of Palau. A fish hatchery powered by the sun is now up and running on the remote island.

Energy Issues and Policy
SunRunr’s Jenny French speaking at StartUpAfrica Conference.
In April, SunrRunr was invited to join a briefing at the White House with senior Administration officials, the White House Business Council and Business Forward.  The briefing included more than 50 business leaders from across the country, and discussions focused on the clean and renewable energy economy and the impacts of climate change on business, national security, human health, and the global economy.

September found SunRunr’s Jenny French at the 2016 StartUpAfrica Entrepreneurship Conference held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. French spoke on a panel discussing “Entrepreneurship in Africa: Now and in the Future.”

SunRunr’s perspective was also called on in October with an invitation to participate in a small business roundtable with Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas. The event was organized by Virginia Exports and Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Raising Awareness of Sustainability and Preparedness

SunRunr was nationally honored this year with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA)  2016 Individual and Community Preparedness Award for Technological Innovation.  During an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., SunRunr and ten other awardees were recognized for our innovative practices and programs that contribute to making communities safer, better prepared, and more resilient.  During roundtable and breakout discussions with high-level officials, recipients were asked to share our success stories, lessons learned, and expertise.  The two-day event gave us a lot to reflect on as we look to the future.

One of our most gratifying highlights of 2016 has been to watch the development of the Net-Zero Science Classroom at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, Virginia.  In January, SunRunr visited the school to demonstrate a solar generator to John Woods’ 6th grade science class.  With financial support from the Moore Educational Trust and partnerships with local businesses and community-based organizations, the students are now implementing real-world energy solutions and have advanced to Phase II toward a Net-Zero Science Classroom.

In 2017, join our discussions on SunRunner Sphere Blog and on Facebook as we continue to bring you news and developments from around the world on Going Green, Sustainable Solar, & Practical Preparedness.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Partnerships in Action: Net-Zero Science Classroom Advances to Phase II

The advancement of renewable energy innovation is in the hands of 6th grade students. And rightly so.  This past year, science teacher John Woods and his students at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, Virginia, have been implementing real-world energy solutions to develop a Net-Zero Science Classroom.  With financial support from the Moore Educational Trust and partnerships with SUNRNR and other local businesses and community-based organizations, the full vision of a Net-Zero Science Center is shining bright.

Phase I

The Net-Zero Science Center has a two phase implementation plan.  Phase I includes a Mini Instructional Alternative Energy System with the purpose of providing students a compact instructional off-grid ground-level system that can be explored and deployed each academic year.   A SUNRNR 110, ground mounted solar panels, and a ground deployed wind turbine were chosen to serve as the instructional components for investigating hands-on, real-life alternative energy applications.

Phase II

The second phase to reach Net-Zero includes the design and implementation of a Grid-Tie Alternative Energy System that will power the entire classroom via solar and wind.  The project recently received a boost with the donation of a 45-panel 3kW solar array.  The panels came from a decommissioned remote communications installation, and once the array is installed it is expected to fully power all the classroom’s lighting, computers, and devices. With this crucial donation, the project now enters Phase II and is seeking partnerships to accomplish the technical and design elements necessary for a fully operational Alternative Energy System and instructional space.

Innovation Begins with Questions

“What would it take to….?”  These young energy scientists at North Fork Middle School have embraced the challenge to reduce their school’s dependence on the conventional energy grid.  And by immersing themselves in problem-solving and building a network of advisors, this 6th Grade classroom is fast becoming a model for engaging in alternative energy solutions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to Weather a Power Outage Using the 4 Phases of Emergency Management

When Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean and up the coast of the United States last month, the deadly hurricane lasted 11 days and caused record-breaking flooding and sustained winds over 100mph. After the storm moved through, residents and aid agencies faced the daunting task of reestablishing access to basic necessities and sanitation.  And efforts to recover were impeded in many areas by massive power outages and washed out bridges and roads.

To many of our SUNRNR customers, hurricanes are no strangers.  Over the years their names have changed, but their impact and threat of impact is familiar and constant.  While a SUNRNR may be a solar + storage portable solution for off-grid, agribusiness, or daily use, an extreme weather event such as Hurricane Matthew exemplifies the crucial need for emergency power that is safe and reliable.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency identifies 4 Phases of Emergency Management:  Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.  Emergencies may give little or no warning and evacuation is not always an option. This cycle provides a good framework for identifying when and how to incorporate portable solar + storage into your emergency plans.

Photo credit FEMA


“During Hurricane Charlie we were without power for two weeks.  We were prepared this time.”  - SUNRNR owner, Mark O.

The goal of mitigation is to reduce the damaging effects of an emergency and to prevent secondary emergencies. 

     What types of events can occur in your community and around your region that would affect power?  Remember, you may not be hit by an event, but your power source may be.  During Hurricane Matthew, outer rainbands triggered flash flooding hundred of miles away from the center of the hurricane.

     What could be the consequences of short term and long term power outage for yourself, family, neighbors, farm, or business?  How will you address food, water, and sanitation needs, receive emergency announcements, communicate with family, and refrigerate perishable food or medicine?

     What have you learned from past events? What could you improve upon?

     How will you generate power that is safe and reliable? Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms involving power outages. A SUNRNR portable generator eliminates this threat.  It can be run indoors, creates no toxic fumes, and doesn’t require fuel - an especially limited resource during and after an emergency.

     What power tools would you need for emergency repairs during or after an event?

Photo courtesy of SUNRNR owners, Gary & Ellen B.


“The storm was predicted to have 60-70 mph winds here. Prior to the storm, we topped the three units off to the max with an AC charger, just in case. It’s a good feeling, knowing that we have this system for everyday use and emergency power!”-  SUNRNR owners, Gary & Ellen B.

Preparation enables you to respond more quickly and efficiently when an emergency is headed your way or is right on your doorstep. 

     Know your equipment and what your SUNRNR can power. You don’t want to be reading an owner’s manual when you need to be boarding up windows or taking care of your family or livestock.

     Do a test run with your SUNRNR ahead of time and involve everyone in your household.

     Make sure your generator is fully charged.


“Here we are in the middle of Hurricane Matthew...but the good thing is that we have the SUNRNR generator here giving us light, powering the refrigerator, and running some fans.”
-       SUNRNR owner, Andrew P.

During the Response Phase of Emergency Management, preparedness plans are put into action to safeguard lives and prevent further property damage.  As you can see in this video that SUNRNR owner, Andrew recorded during Hurricane Matthew, having a portable solar + storage generator and knowing how to use it can power not only essentials but also provide a degree of calm during a chaotic situation.

     Let there be light. Not only does illumination create an emotional sense of safety for you and your family, but it reduces falls and accidents and allows you to assess damage and identify imminent hazards.

     Stay informed. Weather emergencies can often create cascading events. Power your radio or TV and keep your cell phone charged so you can learn of any additional hazards heading your way, request help, communicate with family and neighbors, and stay informed about recovery efforts in your community. 

     Safety first. A SUNRNR generator can be used indoors and creates no toxic fumes. You can use your generator to power a fan to keep your family cool and to keep your perishable foods and medicines safe.


After the immediate emergency is over, recovery can be indeterminate and impaired by a damaged infrastructure and a scarcity of fuel.  As soon as the storm has passed and it’s safe to do so, set out your solar panels so you can begin recharging your SUNRNR.  With solar + storage you have the ability to care for your basic power needs.

     Make repairs around your home with the benefit of power tools.

     Keep your food fresh.

     Give support to family, neighbors, or recovery workers simply by being able to provide a charging station or a cooling station.


What did you learn?  What could you improve to lessen the impact of the next emergency and power outage?

Hurricane. Tornado. Derecho. Ice storm... The causes of power outages are countless, but with the 4 Phases of Emergency Management as a guide, you can use solar + storage to care for your family and property.