New solar charging station on campus for student use

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UT alumna, Beth Ferguson, performs maintenance on the solar charging station outside of the Perry Castaneda Library. Ferguson founded The Sol Design Lab that installed the solar power charging station which can charge any number of electrical devices.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Students on campus can now charge their electrical devices outside using solar energy without the hassle of trying to find an electrical outlet in or around a campus building.

The Sol Design Lab, founded by UT alumna Beth Ferguson, recently installed a solar power charging station in front of Perry-Castañeda Library for students to charge any electrical device, from a laptop to an electric scooter, in a sustainable manner. The idea to install the station was first proposed by three students to the Green Fee Committee, which funds environmental projects on campus, including the solar station.

This is the third solar station in Austin. The other two are located in East Austin and the South Congress area.

Ferguson said she got the idea for the solar station when she purchased an electric scooter as a graduate student.

“I had no place to charge it, and that’s when I had idea that UT could have a solar charging station,” Ferguson said.

In addition to designing the solar station to look like an old-fashioned gas pump station, Ferguson said she wanted the station to be conveniently structured for students.

“There are lots of students who use the outlets in the hallways where there aren’t tables or chairs, so I decided to add chairs and tables to my design along with the bike rack,” Ferguson said.

Environmental science senior Eric Swanson, one of the three students who proposed the solar station’s installation, said he wants to raise awareness about solar energy on campus and how it is great renewable source.

“We already have solar panels on a couple of roofs here on campus, but nothing that students can actually see and interact with,” Swanson said. “We placed it in front of the PCL because that area gets a lot of traffic, and the pump can also be moved around campus for certain events, such as football games.”

Swanson said the proposal also includes a plan to create an interdisciplinary course where students can design and build their own solar powered charging stations.

“It’s still in the works and probably won’t be implemented for a couple more years,” Swanson said. “However, we want to let students know that if this is something that they’re interested in, there is an option to learn more about solar energy and how it affects campus.”

The $5 green fee started in fall 2011 and will continue to be collected with each student’s tuition at the beginning of each semester until summer 2016, said Karen Blaney, sustainability operations assistant manager at the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management.

“Here on campus, students do have the power to show the school what their priorities are,” Blaney said. “The Green Fee Program comes into place to do that in the area of sustainability and the environment.”

Pre-nursing freshman Marlene Archila said she likes studying outside, so having somewhere where she can plug in her electrical devices outdoors has its benefits.

“I think you can kill two birds with one stone because [the solar station] is convenient and it’s good for the environment,” Archila said.

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Texas alumna establishes solar charger