Organizations hold launch party for solar-charging stations

Ariana Guerra

Three organizations hosted a party Friday to promote their latest innovation: solar panel charging stations on campus.

At the party, the UT Green Fee Committee, Science Undergraduate Research Group and Sol Design Lab celebrated the installation of two solar charging stations intended to promote a greener environment on the University campus. According to Megan Archer, environmental science senior and Green Fee Committee student assistant, the project’s main goal is to inspire conversations about renewable energy, starting with the solar-powered charging station. Both charging stations, which were installed in June, provide 12 110-volt electrical outlets, six USB charging ports and Wi-Fi.

“This solar panel, for example, will still work and provide electricity if there is a blackout. That’s why solar itself is so important. We want to spark environmental initiative.”

In 2011, Archer collaborated on the project with Beth Ferguson, founder of Sol Design Lab. Ferguson, who graduated from the University with a master’s in design, first thought of the idea when she was a student.

“The idea of solar panel charging stations became my thesis project when I bought an electric scooter and had no place to charge it,” Ferguson said. “That was back in 2008.”

Ferguson provided the solar charging stations from her lab in San Francisco, but throughout every step of the process, UT students from different departments were involved in learning how to design with solar and fabrication model making.

“Basically there is a charge controller that acts as the ‘brain’ and is connected to solar panel and battery,” Ferguson said. “Then, the battery is connected to the inverter, and the inverter is connected to the outlet, which provides the DC power.”

The two stations are located near the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Art Building and Museum. At Friday’s party, which was held at the station near the Art Building and Museum, chemical engineering junior Eddie Zhan said he was impressed with the station’s wide range of capabilities.

“I learned it harnesses solar energy to create electricity and allows you to charge anything, [like] electric cars [and] phones,” Zhan said.

Ferguson will teach app-building workshops hosted by the University the next three Sundays.

“We actually did our first round two years ago where kids made solar charging station designs, but now these upcoming workshops will be focused on creating apps to promote the solar panel charging stations,” Ferguson said.