Solar Powered Phone-Charging Kiosks For NYC

What’s next for New York City after getting a big, bold (and apparently successful) bike share program? Street Charge, that’s what – solar-powered, battery-equipped public kiosks where you can plug in, USB-style, to juice your phone or other hand-held device.

Goal Zero, the portable charging company, said a Street Charge system was making its debut today at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. Goal Zero said that one of its partners on the project, AT&T, will install several more units “around New York this summer in high foot traffic areas” – Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island, Riverside Park, Rockaways, Summerstage in Central Park, Randall’s Island, Governor’s Island, Union Square and Hudson River Park.

street charge

image via Goal Zero

The sleek charging stands, with 15-watt solar panels arrayed on what looks at a glance like a three-bladed propeller atop a pole, were designed by Brooklyn’s own Pensa. The firm had tested a prototype Street Charge last summer in a reclaimed public space in DUMBO.

The units that the companies have teamed up to install and make available to the public now have six USB ports in all: three built-in tips (Apple iPhone 5, iPhone 4, and mini USB); and three female USB ports for people using their own charging cables.

“Nearly half of all Americans own a smartphone and the amount of time we spend on handheld devices has increased dramatically,” Joe Atkin, president and CEO of Goal Zero, said in a statement. “All too often, we hear the dreaded low-battery beep and it happens at the most inconvenient times. Street Charge will fix that.”

Goal Zero clearly has hopes the concept might spread beyond the Big Apple. “Street Charge will be modular to meet the needs of architects, developers, and city planners seeking to offer amenities in commercial and public spaces,” the company said. “Besides providing power, Street Charge will have the potential for lighting, WIFI, and signage for ads and way finding.”

And what about at night, or if it’s a miserably rainy day with no sun to be found? Goal Zero said “the highly efficient solar panels collect the sun’s power even in cloudy conditions,” and added that a “power, built-in battery system” will store power to keep the system running. Charge timing will be “as fast as the wall—usually about two hours from empty to full, although it depends on what you’re charging,” the company said.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.