Georgetown University’s main campus saw the installation of the first of four public, solar-powered cell phone charging stations late last month at the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle turnaround in front of McDonough Arena as part of a new collaborative sustainability initiative.
The Office of Sustainability houses the project in partnership with the Coca-Cola Co., which sponsored three of the stations, and with University Information Services, which provided the fourth. The student group Georgetown Energy and Environmental Network, Auxiliary Services and Planning and Facilities Management also contributed to the project, which seeks to bring accessible, sustainable technology to campus.
NRG Portable Power LLC, a subsidiary of the Texas-based NRG Energy Inc., produced the stations, which retail for about $10,000 each. The stations feature attached cords where up to six devices including both Apple Inc. and Android phones, tablets and cameras can be charged at once.
Director of the Office of Sustainability Audrey Stewart said she sees the stations as a double benefit for the university that introduces both an aspect of convenience and a sustainable solution to its campus.
“We think it is a win-win when we can provide a new amenity for the campus community while also advancing sustainability, ” Stewart wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are excited to provide opportunities for members of the campus community to interact with renewable energy and sustainable technologies in their everyday life on campus.”
Stewart said the project was developed in response to student requests for increased charging capacity on campus. The university began working with NRG to purchase the charging stations in April 2015.
According to NRG promotional documents, the stations charge devices through their three solar panels with the same capability as a standard wall outlet. Users can charge their devices at the stations regardless of weather or the time of day, as the station stores solar power with an internal 168-watt lithium battery.
Operating within an optimal temperature range between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S.-made stations, marketed as “modern phone booth[s],” weigh around 800 pounds, stand more than 12 feet tall and are resistant to wind gusts of up to 90 miles per hour.
The charging stations have been installed at other universities since their development in 2013, including the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, as well as in New York City and Barcelona.
According to Stewart, a second charging station will eventually be installed at the bus turnaround as well as in two other high-traffic locations on campus. UIS interim Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Judd Nicholson, said a third prospective location for a charging station is on the esplanade in front of the McDonough School of Business. Jessica Lee (COL ’16), an intern in the Office of Sustainability, said the patio of Village C West could be a fourth potential location for a charging station.
Nicholson added the project concept sprang from the university’s Sustainability Working Group, a team of senior administrators and academic community members dedicated to pursuing sustainability goals at Georgetown.
Nicholson, a member of the working group, explained the goal of the project is to provide a convenient amenity to students while simultaneously increasing the visibility of ecofriendly technology on campus.
“I think tactically it brings [students] the ability to charge their phones and their devices while they are out and about,” Nicholson said. “But I think it also brings awareness of the kinds of technology that can be employed as far as sustainability.”
Aaron Silberman, co-chair of the Georgetown University Student Association Sustainability Policy Team, said the new option of charging devices using solar power reduces the university’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“It means that people are less dependent on charging their phones or charging other devices in such a way that it is required to deal with fossil fuel combustion,” Silberman said.
Erika Cohen-Derr, assistant dean for student engagement and director of the Center for Student Engagement, recently used the new station to charge her cell phone. Cohen said she supports Georgetown’s integration of sustainable technology into its campus.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of more sustainable practices being used at Georgetown,” Cohen-Derr said. “I think anything Georgetown can do to get greener is a good thing.”
Scarlett Tohme (GRD ’16), who often uses the GUTS bus stop where the new charging station has been placed, said the new technology fascinates her and that she sees its potential to be useful.
“I think it’s cool,” Tohme said. “I like that if you’re in a rush and you need your phone to be charged, it’s there, and I like how they have all the different varieties [of chargers] so it kind of helps everyone.”
Hoya Staff Writer Haley Snyder contributed reporting.