Need a quick cellphone charge when you're on the go? Raleigh, NC's got you covered. Now visitors and residents there can charge their phones at three free solar-powered Soofa Bench charging stations in the downtown area, thanks to the city’s Department of Transportation and Office of Sustainability. The charging stations, placed strategically in high traffic areas, are part of a citywide pilot program to showcase the benefits and convenience of solar power through basic, high demand applications.
“Innovation is imperative in a growing city like Raleigh,” Transportation Director Michael Rogers said. “Our desire to stay relevant to our citizens’ needs will keep Raleigh moving forward. Communication devices are important in this day and age, and I am excited that the city will be able to provide free cellphone charging stations within these benches.”
The off-grid charging benches will measure activity in the areas they are installed and collect data on the use of public spaces, such as foot traffic, transportation congestion and event attendance. Data collected by the charging benches will help Raleigh’s event planners measure the success of city sponsored events and correlate attendance information with weather data. Localized activity data will also help the city determine where to install additional Soofa Benches around the city.
The Soofa Bench is constructed from sustainably harvested materials and manufactured in the US. It can sit three adults and features two USB outlets for charging portable devices with solar power. “Since founding Soofa in 2014 we have been fortunate to partner with innovative and inspiring cities that care deeply about providing the highest level of service to their citizens. We couldn't be more excited and look forward to deepening our relationship with Raleigh over the coming years,” Sandra Richter, Soofa cofounder and CEO.
Soofa was founded by an all-woman team of engineers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Initially released and tested in Boston in 2014, additional pilot programs and deployment of the Soofa Bench, through its Early Adopter Program, were established in Miami, Washington, DC and Austin, TX. As a result, the company’s “smart bench” is now installed in 23 states and 65 US cities.
Student groups and multiple solar startup companies, like EnGoPlanet and ConnecTable, have designed and installed versatile, off-grid solar-powered charging tables and benches on college campuses and in cities across the US. For instance, student-developed charging stations on the California State University at Chico campus incorporate thin-film solar panels on umbrella tables in common areas to provide 600-watts of solar charging power with a 780-amp battery system. Additionally, the charger stations installed on the Chico campus feature 120-volt outlets and USB ports to charge cellphones, tablets and laptops free of charge.Tweet