College to install solar panel charging stations on campus

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August 20, 2015

11:43 PM

The College of William and Mary is installing a solar charging station for electronics  on the Sadler Center Terrace funded by the College’s Committee on Sustainability.

The Committee on Sustainability awarded a total of $80,850 for its 2015 Green Fee Awards. The awards were developed by students in 2008 to fund projects that increase sustainability on campus. The committee chooses projects based on their feasibility and their ability to reduce energy costs as well as the College’s carbon footprint according to Chair of the Committee on Sustainability Calandra Waters-Lake.

“Although the charging stations will not produce any large amount of power, sometimes it’s about what power can be produced in the minds of students who are inspired by this sort of project, and that’s the kind of power that can really make a difference in the world,” Waters-Lake said.

The station will be similar to the current picnic tables, but instead made out of recycled plastic with four solar panels located on top of the umbrellas. The umbrella pole will provide two electrical outlets with 110-V plugs, four USB connections and LED to allow use of the table at night.

“Although the charging stations will not produce any large amount of power, sometimes it’s about what power can be produced in the minds of students who are inspired by this sort of project, and that’s the kind of power that can really make a difference in the world,” Waters-Lake said in an email.

The committee takes proposals from both students and faculty. Director of the Keck Environmental Lab Randy Chambers submitted the project proposal last spring and was awarded $7,500 for the solar charging stations idea.

“The notion of charging stations was creative, eye catching and educational in the sense of introducing photovoltaics to the general campus crowd of students, faculty and staff,” Chambers stated via email. “If [students] end up using the solar charging stations someday, perhaps they will be interested in the use of solar energy on other projects. In turn, perhaps the college will be more receptive to large-scale photovoltaic projects.”

Ben Olinger ’16, co-facilitator of the Student Environmental Action Committee, said many in the group believe this is a good idea.

“Most people are excited about it and see it as a small step in the right direction,” Olinger said via email.

“Promoting solar panels for electricity is just one piece of the bigger puzzle of reducing our demand for electricity from fossil fuels,” Chambers said.

The charging station is expected to be installed during the fall 2015 semester. Although there are no plans to purchase additional charging stations or solar panels, Waters-Lake said there is a study under way to determine if certain campus buildings are exposed to enough light to make installing solar panels sensible. According to Chambers, there is an opportunity to generate electricity with solar panels at the College but these projects are currently considered too expensive.

“Promoting solar panels for electricity is just one piece of the bigger puzzle of reducing our demand for electricity from fossil fuels. The great thing about COS is that students/faculty/staff are encouraged to figure out ways to keep William and Mary sustainable for another 322 years,” Chambers said.

Flat Hat News Editor Amanda Williams contributed to this article.

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