Approached by three students to bring more clean energy to their campus, Sol Design Lab installed two solar-powered off-grid charging stations at the University of Texas at Austin. The Solar Charging Stations can charge anything from cell phones to electric scooters and they also provide energy efficient lighting, internet connectivity, gather data about the environment, and display information on an integrated digital screen.
The students, now-alumni Eric Swanson and Austin Jorn, and current student Megan Archer, received grants from two student organizations to build one solar charging station, build two more, and run workshops. Sol Design Lab principal Beth Ferguson is a UT alumni and together with her co-principal, Dallas Swindle, has collaborated with architects, engineers, designers, fabricators and ecologists on award winning projects internationally. The company’s goal “is to spark conversations about energy use, resiliency, recycling objects, evolving use of public space and innovation for our changing world.”
The solar charging stations offer students and community members a shady place to gather while recharging their laptops, phones and electrical devices via USB ports or standard electrical outlets. With three solar panels pumping out 250 watts each, the stations provide a Wi-Fi workstation and solar laboratory for students during the day. Six batteries extend the charging capacity on cloudy days and into the night as a vibrant, LED-illumined, Wi-Fi hotspot. Ferguson states: “With one station in one day, you could essentially power 50 cell phones, 10 iPads, 15 laptops or five electric bikes.”
The stations cost between $55,000 and $65,000 each, although Sol Design does rent out stations for South by Southwest. The accessibility of the stations was a part of their appeal for the commissioning students. Jorn noted, “Texas has so much opportunity to utilize solar energy, not only on a large scale, but on small, adaptable levels. This project helped place the practical use of solar into the minds of thousands of people.”
Via Reporting Texas
Photos by Sol Design Lab