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Food Trucks Go Solar

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Food Trucks Go Solar

With more and more Americans turning to the food truck industry for a quick, cheap meal and sometimes even a gourmet meal, emissions from these gas guzzling machines is becoming a fairly significant factor.

Solar Roast Coffee roasts their organic fair trade coffee using roof top solar panels.
Photo credit: Pinterest

So the question is, how can the U.S. make a move to keep and expand on our well-loved food trucks, while cutting their environmental impact? New York might have a solution, by going solar. The state has taken a huge step by launching an initiative to get 500 energy-efficient, solar-powered carts out on city streets by next summer. The pilot program will give food truck vendors the opportunity to lease carts for five years at little to no extra cost.

Food trucks have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with their revenue rising an average of 9.3 percent every year since 2010. With budget-friendly meals on-the-go, it’s no surprise why Americans are choosing this four-wheeled kitchen over a meal at a standard sit-down restaurant. In 2012, there was an estimated 3 million food trucks in the U.S. And while they have proved to be more efficient for the consumer, for the vendors and environment it can be another story entirely.

In a survey, food truck vendors were found often spending more than $500 a month on gas: the lights and refrigeration systems in the trucks are powered by diesel generators, while a tank of propane is used to keep the grills warm. Running sometimes up to 10 hours a day, this seemingly small contributor to air pollution is proving to make a big impact. Three million trucks running every day on fossil fuels adds more than 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every hour, turning into hundreds of billions within a year. And when tackling a problem as large as air pollution, sometimes it makes the most sense to focus on individual factors.

Perhaps it is time for the rest of the nation to follow New York’s example, and make sure this growing industry makes the right steps towards energy efficiency, recognizes the potential for saving money and takes the next steps to protect the environment: all by going solar.

These carts are expected to cut fossil-fuel emissions by 60 percent, and smog-causing nitrous-oxides by 95 percent, as stated by EnergyVision in an independent analysis of the cart’s technology. If this technology were to be implemented nation-wide, it could mean over 28 million pounds of fossil fuels spared from the atmosphere every hour. This is good news for the vendors too, helping them cut energy costs by up to 20 percent.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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