NEW ORLEANS – In the wake of a hurricane or other natural disaster, communities can be left waiting for days or even weeks for the power to be restored. A New Orleans nonprofit is hoping to lift part of that burden by installing solar panels on local restaurants and providing a source of relief after the storm.
After Category 4 Hurricane Ida left New Orleans without power, the nonprofit Feed the Second Line launched a new program called "Get Lit, Stay Lit," offering a potential lifeline for communities after a natural disaster and making local businesses part of the solution.
The nonprofit plans to provide power backup options for New Orleans area restaurants, including solar and battery backups, so those businesses can become first responders to their communities. These businesses can continue to feed people and provide power and cooling centers in the aftermath of a storm.
"Instead of throwing all their food away (they) can keep it cold and serve it to their neighbors," Feed the Second Line interim Director Devin Dewolf said.
Each micro-grid power installation will cost between $60,000 and $90,000. However, the nonprofit says while that number sounds like a lot, each installation could save lives.
"In Louisiana, we’re going to have a hurricane. The last thing we need is someone flying into our state after a hurricane to cook for us," Dewolf said. "What would be much better is for us to do it ourselves, and that’s really what this (program) does is empowering every restaurant to be there for their community."
More than a year after Hurricane Ida, Queen Trini Lisa became the first "Stay Lit" restaurant to receive solar panels.
The goal is to upgrade 300 restaurants as part of the "Get Lit, Stay Lit" program.
Nonprofit leaders and Queen Trini Lisa are hoping it’s here to stay.
"It’s a model and what we’re pushing for is that the city and state government makes the investment in every neighborhood," Dewolf said. "It’s only a matter of time before we have a hurricane. We may have a major hurricane this year, we don’t know, but every neighborhood should have a ‘Stay Lit.’"
Nelson said she would like to see more businesses be able to help their community after a disaster.
"It feels good to do this and give back to the community," Nelson said. "We have a lot of hurricanes here, and I would like to see more of this."
Feed the Second Line continues to fundraise to ensure a "Stay Lit" restaurant can be in every neighborhood. Most recently, the nonprofit partnered with the Louisiana Green Corp. and Solar Alternative to help provide training for people interested in solar jobs.