UT invests in solar-powered cellphone charger

Ashley Tsao

UT students can now recharge their phones and themselves under a solar-powered umbrella on campus.

UT is one of 70 colleges investing in a green outdoor power solution that allows students to charge their mobile devices via outdoor solar-powered umbrellas. The umbrellas, made by ZON, include solar panels on top of the umbrella that transfer energy to a lithium ion battery. Three USB ports are located at the base of each umbrella. Currently, the University has purchased one ZON Powersol umbrella that was installed in February 2015. According to a ZON representative, each Powersol costs between $1,600–$2,700.

“Mobile devices are not merely phones,” Diana Ziskin, account executive at Trent & Company, the public relations firm for ZON, said. “They contain our entire life, alarm clock, calendar, email, cameras and more. With more mobile devices on earth than human beings and statistics looming large about how much energy is consumed to charge up these devices, ZON feels its goals are both attainable and important for the future.”

Sarah Akin, co-founder of ZON Powersols, conceptualized the technology after being unable to find an outdoor mobile charging station on multiple occasions, according to Ziskin.

This technology was first introduced to UT when Joe Franklin, ZON Powersol’s higher education account executive, reached out to the University during the company’s launch in 2014, Ziskin said.

According to history sophomore Sydney Rodriguez, UT should invest in more green energy projects, such as ZON Powersols.

“Our planet is obviously in trouble, and we need to do everything we can to ensure future generations can stay on this planet without any hazards,” Rodriguez said. “It’s also going to be more resourceful because if we have more of these Powersols, not as many people are going to be fighting over the wall plugs at the SAC or in the Union.”

Powersols would allow UT students enrolled in online courses to go outside while staying connected to their online coursework, psychology freshman Caitlyn Jones said.

“It’s a good way to make sure we are outside, but we can still stay connected,” Jones said. “I think UT should invest in even more green solutions on campus.”

Powersols would be a good investment not only for UT, but the City of Austin, Rodriguez said.

“We already have so many green energy ideas like the no plastic bag rule in supermarkets,” Rodriguez said. “Investing in more green energy solutions is just going to put UT and Austin on the map even more.”