Natural disasters are not scenarios anyone looks forward to discussing, but planning is essential for survival and recovery.


In huge cities like LA, millions of people might be cut off from power for days. Similarly, mass communications could be offline, but it is constant information updates, phone, texting, Web surfing and email that are of utmost importance to help people find food and water and get traffic information. They also need to be able to get alerts from authorities such as police, fire and health workers. When many power lines and roads are damaged, utility trucks can be slow to travel to them so repairs can be delayed.

Because information is of critical importance, an Office of LA mayor Eric Garcetti Seismic Task Force has published a report calling for a backup wi-fi system that would operate using solar power, “Develop a solar-powered Citywide Wi-Fi to provide residents with a way to access the Internet at a time when the primary system is disrupted. This low power system could also serve as way to maintain communication through email and texting should electrical system failures cause other communications systems to fail.”

Of course it makes sense to use whatever natural resources are available when normal infrastructure is disrupted or destroyed. You might not think Los Angeles has enough sunlight to run a solar-powered Internet back-up system, but it most likely does.

For example, a UCLA study found that almost 1.5 million rooftops in LA could have solar panels installed upon them. If that many rooftops had solar systems, then the amount of electricity generated could provide power to most of the people living there, at least in theory.

One of the humorous misperceptions about solar power is that is it unreliable, but if it were used after a big earthquake and helped people recover, potentially even saving lives, this perception might change.

Solar-powered wi-fi is a good idea in general, because it would not be as susceptible to power outages that are grid-related.