Sustainability Surge: NYC gets free solar charging stations

New York is becoming a hotbed for sustainability lately. Following the recent announcements of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on a $20 billion climate change adaptation plan and a food waste composting plan, not too mention rolling out a bike share programme with Citi Group, the city has introduced public solar charging stations around its five boroughs.

Telecoms giant AT&T and solar start-up Goal Zero are the two firms behind the recently implemented project. They have teamed up with Brooklyn-based design studio Pensa to place 25 Street Charge stations around parks, beaches, and other outdoor spaces and electricity dead-zone areas for a three-month pilot programme. 

The Street Charge stations will enable New Yorkers to charge their smartphones and gadgets while on the go, keeping them connected with their mobile needs for free and in a sustainable manner. 

The station, designed over several trial runs, looks like a modern minimalist street post with three petal-like panels on top.

Each of the panels contains 15-watt microcrystalline PV solar cells that keep the station’s internal 168-watt-hour lithium ion battery in full power day and night. Users simply hook up their device on the USB or micro USB cables found on the small wooden tabletops and wait for their device to get its needed energy boost. 

According to Goal Zero’s Mark Olson, the charging rate is the same as that of a regular wall outlet. The energy required is self-sufficiently generated by the station and does not need to tap the city grid. 

For AT&T, the initiative is a result of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the United States’ East Coast area more than six months ago, causing billion dollars worth of damage and over 8 million homes to lose power. The company had then provided the city’s distribution centres with commercial generators and a pop-up cellular service, which allowed New Yorkers to get in touch with one another and with the rest of the country. 

Marissa Shorenstein, AT&T’s New York state president, said, “We are always looking for new and meaningful ways to improve the daily lives of New Yorkers through greater accessibility to mobile technology … Solar mobile charging is a natural next step in AT&T’s efforts to provide innovative services for New Yorkers to lead more sustainable lives.”

Together with the city’s Parks Department, AT&T and Goal Zero will reposition the charging stations in different locations throughout the programme’s duration. Some of the areas include Coney Island, the Staten Island Zoo, Hudson River Park, Riverside Park and Governor’s Island. 

The stations, said Pensa founder Marco Perry, are standalone units, thus not requiring wires to be laid down or any additional equipment that would only be an eyesore to the natural surroundings. Street Charge stations are mobile structures that can be set up anywhere. 

As for making the stations a permanent fixture in the city, no plans have yet been announced. 

For the government’s part, Mayor Bloomberg said, “After Hurricane Sandy, I asked our private sector partners to step up and help improve the resiliency of New York City. AT&T is doing just that, and we’re grateful for their efforts.”

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