News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Riverside Undergrads Can Now Use Solar Power to Surf Web Instead of Studying

New solar device charging tables on the UC Riverside campus | Photo: CREDIT/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Here's an idea that ought to be adopted more widely: students on the UC Riverside campus can now top off the charge on their phones, tablets, and laptops at tables on campus run by off-the-grid solar power.

As of this week, the campus now sports 13 self-contained, off-the-grid solar cafe tables, each one with eight standard 120-volt and eight USB charging ports built in. (Sixteen charging ports per table? That should keep plug access battles to a minimum.)

The juice for the ports comes from batteries built into the table bases, which are charged by 265-watt solar panels that also serve as shade canopies. Under normal circumstances each day's sunlight should provide enough stored charge for more than 150 mobile device fill-ups, and the batteries will need replacing only once every five years.

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That 265 watts per solar panel, UC Riverside officials say, is about three times what the tables would actually need in full sun to fill the storage batteries to capacity each day. That over-engineering allows tables to work reasonably well on the occasional overcast day, as well as allowing the University to deploy the tables in slightly shaded spots.

"The solar tables provide a clean and renewable source of energy for charging the multitude of mobile devices on campus while offering much-needed shade," said John Cook, UC Riverside's director of Sustainability. "The solar tables get us one step closer to meeting our 2025 carbon neutrality goals."

The rollout of the new solar tables is being timed to coincide with UC Riverside's Earth Week celebration, and students (and others) will be able to start using all 13 of the tables by Thursday.

The tables aren't cheap, at about $11,500 each. The tab for the tables is being picked up by the campus's student union, the Student Technology Fund, and the Green Campus Action Plan.

Just another example of how well-thought-out, well-implemented renewable energy can make life easier as it reduces our carbon footprint. Anything that gives us less chance of tripping over extension cords in the local cafe sounds good to us.


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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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