When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal killed more than 8,000 people and injured another 18,000 people, the quakes leveled much of Kathmandu and left an estimated 1.4 million Nepalese people in need of help. Solar was integral in providing recovery almost automatically. And here’s why.

Power sooner versus later.
Solar power generators are incredibly helpful in disaster situations because they eliminate the need to wait. Relying on traditional diesel power generators often means trying to find fuel in chaotic post-disaster situations, or waiting for fuel to be shipped in by relief organizations. With solar there’s no need to wait. Solar power generators can be especially vital for medical services and with battery backups power is available day or night.

More agile, strategic relief workers.
The US military has been relying more on solar power in recent years in part because modern military operations are leaner than they used to be. Smaller, more strategic deployments can’t rely on bulky, heavy fuel canisters for diesel generators. In the same way solar enables military forces to enhance troop mobility, it can allow medical and disaster relief personnel to move more quickly to where help is needed most. For this reason, the larger microgrid style solar systems used in normal conditions are typically not what’s needed in a post-disaster situation.

Clean, safe water.
In post-disaster situations the water supply is often heavily compromised. Floods can foul municipal water systems. Earthquakes damage pipes, causing water contamination. Dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis may contaminate water. Solar water filtration is a cheap, low tech way to get clean water quickly. It uses electricity and heat to disinfect water. There are already several commercially available solutions available that are small, rugged, and highly portable.

More stable communities and economies.
Solar lanterns are incredibly beneficial to displaced people after disasters. After a flood in Namibia one relief organization studied the specific benefits of these lanterns. They found children were more able to keep up with their studies at night and businesses were able to stay open, resulting in fewer disruptions to the local economy.