New Yorkers are currently adjusting to a spate of new amenities, such as Wi-Fi-enabled subway stations and a bike share program, that residents in other cities have enjoyed for some time.
But new to the Big Apple this week, and anywhere else for that matter, are free cellphone charging stations in popular public places. The cool part? They’re solar powered and can charge a phone as fast as any wall outlet.
The portable chargers were purchased by AT&T and installed with the help of the city for a pilot initiative called Street Charge. According to Joe Atkin, CEO of Goal Zero, the solar innovation company that made the charger platforms with the Brooklyn design firm Pensa, Street Charge stations are in seven locations, including Central Park, Madison Square Park and Coney Island, and will soon expand to 25 locations across all five boroughs.
“We’re doing this pilot run through the fall,” Atkin said, “and we hope by that time it’s deemed successful.” If it is, Atkin hopes to roll out Street Charge across the U.S.
The Street Charge platform looks like a high-tech palm tree, with three long solar panels protruding from the top of a long metallic stem. Each platform has three charging stations and can connect with iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, micro-USB and USB devices.
Atkin first struck upon the idea of a portable, solar-powered energy source when Goal Zero was doing research in New York City after superstorm Sandy.
“We saw that so many people were left without power,” he explained, “and it gave rise to some innovation of how can we bring power to people in remote locations. And really, solar and portable battery systems are one of the best alternatives.”
Goal Zero heard that Pensa was designing the Street Charge platforms and asked if it could help. Pensa’s response, according to Atkin: “Yeah, how about build it?”
Mark Prommel, Pensa’s design director, said there was a dearth of options in between a folding panel on the side of a backpack and a hefty panel on top of a house: “There was a hole for something that was a simple and elegant solution, that could be put in these different environments and feel comfortable there.”
Goal Zero contributed the battery systems and solar panels and, with the help of AT&T, brought it to market. Why did they select New York City first?
“If you can make it New York, you can make it anywhere,” said Neil Giacobbi, AT&T’s New York public affairs director.