Mobile Technology

Street Charge solar charging stations for smartphones make New York debut

Street Charge solar charging s...
AT&T, Goal Zero and Pensa have started rolling out the Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York
AT&T, Goal Zero and Pensa have started rolling out the Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York
View 18 Images
Pensa's early Street Charge design sketches
1/18
Pensa's early Street Charge design sketches
Pensa's original Street Charge concept
2/18
Pensa's original Street Charge concept
A Pensa cafe umbrella Street Charge prototype on its way to Dumbo for installation
3/18
A Pensa cafe umbrella Street Charge prototype on its way to Dumbo for installation
The Pensa cafe umbrella prototype waiting to charge up mobile devices via PV panels on top
4/18
The Pensa cafe umbrella prototype waiting to charge up mobile devices via PV panels on top
An iPhone being charged by a Street Charge prototype from Pensa
5/18
An iPhone being charged by a Street Charge prototype from Pensa
The final design from Pensa and Goal Zero
6/18
The final design from Pensa and Goal Zero
Underneath a lip at the inner edge of each table are USB and micro USB cables, along with charging tips for popular specialist connections like Apple's 30-pin and Lightning
7/18
Underneath a lip at the inner edge of each table are USB and micro USB cables, along with charging tips for popular specialist connections like Apple's 30-pin and Lightning
The Street Charge final design
8/18
The Street Charge final design
Goal Zero and Pensa field test a Street Charge prototype in New York
9/18
Goal Zero and Pensa field test a Street Charge prototype in New York
The Street Charge station has the potential to host lighting, Wi-Fi hotspots or signage for directions or advertising
10/18
The Street Charge station has the potential to host lighting, Wi-Fi hotspots or signage for directions or advertising
The developers reckon that the charge time from a Street Charge station will be about the same as when plugging into a wall socket
11/18
The developers reckon that the charge time from a Street Charge station will be about the same as when plugging into a wall socket
New Yorkers top up their smartphone batteries at a Street Charge station in New York
12/18
New Yorkers top up their smartphone batteries at a Street Charge station in New York
Map showing AT&T's Street Charge installs to date, and Wi-Fi hotspots
13/18
Map showing AT&T's Street Charge installs to date, and Wi-Fi hotspots
Units are best positioned in bright sunlight, but can still harvest energy on cloudy days
14/18
Units are best positioned in bright sunlight, but can still harvest energy on cloudy days
At roughly standing height, small wooden-topped shelf tables fan out from the center
15/18
At roughly standing height, small wooden-topped shelf tables fan out from the center
AT&T, Goal Zero and Pensa have started rolling out the Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York
16/18
AT&T, Goal Zero and Pensa have started rolling out the Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York
Three 15 W microcrystalline PV blades sit at the top of the unit, charging the unit's 168 Wh Lithium Ion battery
17/18
Three 15 W microcrystalline PV blades sit at the top of the unit, charging the unit's 168 Wh Lithium Ion battery
AT&T has committed to install a total of 25 Street Charge stations across all five New York boroughs in the next few months
18/18
AT&T has committed to install a total of 25 Street Charge stations across all five New York boroughs in the next few months

Telecomms provider AT&T has partnered with portable solar power systems developer Goal Zero and Brooklyn design studio Pensa for the roll out of Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York. Each station is topped by PV panels that charge up a powerful internal battery to provide smartphone and tablet users with a free juice up. The first units debuted at Riverside Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fort Greene Park and Governor's Island on June 18, and will be followed by another 20 or so stations in the coming months.

The original Street Charge station concepts were designed in early 2012 by Pensa as, according to the group's Marco Perry, "an elegant all-in-one community solution for solar charging of mobile devices." Development sketches then became working prototypes. One sported an LED street lamp with a PV panel on top, and another was created in collaboration with the Dumbo Business Improvement District with solar panels above sun umbrellas for use in a cafe setting. Perry told us that the umbrellas are still in use today.

The Pensa cafe umbrella prototype waiting to charge up mobile devices via PV panels on top
The Pensa cafe umbrella prototype waiting to charge up mobile devices via PV panels on top

Pensa teamed up with Goal Zero for the final design, which has an aluminum facade with a steel core. At roughly standing height, small wooden-topped shelf tables fan out from the center like leaves from a flower stem. Sprouting from underneath a lip at the inner edge of each table are USB and micro USB cables, along with charging tips for popular specialist connections like Apple's 30-pin and Lightning. Three 15 W microcrystalline PV blades sit at the top of the unit, and included Lithium nickel manganese cobalt (or Li-NMC for short) batteries mean that the station can be used day or night.

The unit is completely stand-alone, so there's no sneaky leeching from the grid, and the developers reckon that the charge time from a Street Charge station will be about the same as when plugging into a wall socket.

"Users' devices are not pulling direct from the panels, the panels charge a 168 Wh Lithium Ion battery which then charges smartphones and tablets at the same rate as a wall outlet," explains Goal Zero's Mark Olson. "The panels are constantly charging that internal battery."

AT&T has committed to install a total of about 25 Street Charge stations across all five boroughs in the next few months, including Hudson River Park, Coney Island, La Tourette Golf Course, Rockaway Beach, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Orchard Beach.

New Yorkers top up their smartphone batteries at a Street Charge station in New York
New Yorkers top up their smartphone batteries at a Street Charge station in New York

Olson told us that Goal Zero will be partnering with third party maintenance companies, with personnel taking care of regular battery swapouts and monitoring for vandalism and repair. The company is also currently in talks about future Street Charge deployments in other municipalities, universities and outdoor spaces.

The charging station design is modular to fit the needs of local architects and developers, and also has the potential to host lighting, Wi-Fi hotspots or signage for directions or advertising. Units are best positioned in bright sunlight, but can still harvest energy on cloudy days.

Sources: Goal Zero, Pensa, AT&T

6 comments
Pin
It's like a feeding trough for thieves.
S Michael
Pin has it right. I will give it maybe two weeks before thieves steal it. And then the vandals will mark all over the polls. It will cost more to take them away, than it did to put them up. Unless of course if they were made of metal, then the thieves with take the whole thing within weeks. LOL.
Pin
I meant if a bunch of New York yuppies are standing around with their phones out being anti-social and oblivious to their surroundings, it's easy pickings for phone snatchers.
BigGoofyGuy
I see it as being great for places that are secure; ie, theme parks, common areas in a gated community. I can also see it as an emergency being used to recharge devices when the power is out (with it being solar powered). Perhaps if they only have it out during the day and only in areas where there closed circuit cameras fixed on it? Perhaps it will last longer?
Benjamin Zeng
Kind of sad that the first thing we think of is that it'll get stolen right? tis life in the big city..
Eckhart Beatty
I love this public space "functional art." Best of all, perhaps, it combines freely available solar power to satisfy the omnipresent demand of a cell's re-juicing. Eventually such capabilities will find their way into busses and trains, no doubt. What more appropriate a solution then than this? Question is, Why don't we find it in places like the San Francisco Bay Area? I think I have part of the solution to the problem. I look forward to hearing your comments.