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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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Solar-powered charging station benefits students, environment


Civil engineering graduate student Jawad Khalid uses the charging station. | Sara Samora/The Cougar

It was another sunny day on campus when Jawad Khalid, a civil engineering graduate student, noticed his phone needed to charge.

He had forgotten his charger, so Khalid walked up to a charging station in front of the Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall. He switched charging plugs a couple of times, but finally stuck with one after he lifted his glasses to ensure his phone was charging.

This charging station is not like the ones seen at airports – this one is free and uses solar power energy.

The panels take the energy that comes in the form of light and converts it into electricity, which UH Chief Energy Officer Ramanan Krishnamoorti said is the same energy one finds in an electrical power outlet.

“All of (the) energy we get on earth comes from the sun in some way or another,” Krishnamoorti said. “(The question is) can you capture that in some effective way?”

The charging station is not the first of its kind on campus. In 2011, a solar array was installed on the central power plant roof. The solar arrays powers 25 percent of the office space for the plant, according to the campus initiatives on the Office of Sustainability website.

Students line up to charge their phones in front of PGH

The solar-powered charging station is brought to campus in collaboration with NRG Energy and UH. | Sara Samora/The Cougar

Krishnamoorti said the idea for the solar charging station was only recent, when NRG Energy approached school officials with a possibility of coordinating a solar charger for the university as well as having it available for the masses.

“We decided to find a way to install it in a matter that it would be consistent with as large an audience as possible,” Krishnamoorti said. “Energy is part of the environment and (because of) the distinction between the energy and the environment, we felt that we are (celebrating) doing both promoting the idea of using energy, but also bring it in a way that’s consistent in a sustainable way.”

Krishnamoorti said one of the ideas for the future is to install solar power charging stations for vehicles. He said, however, that they are looking for strategic opportunities.

“We don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it,” Krishnamoorti said.

Khalid said that solar energy is a renewable source, and that making more stations, such as the one in front of PGH, will make students aware about the alternate source of energy.

“It also helps for them to not only depend on electricity,” Khalid said. “So we should look at the source of energy; it helps the environment, and it helps others as well.”

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