Goal Zero’s solar chargers and battery backups have been used in some of the toughest environments on earth, places like Everest, and Eric Larsen used the company’s chargers on his recent attempt to bike across Antarctica. But they may be facing their toughest challenge yet—New York City. Goal Zero partnered with AT&T and design studio Pensa to develop Street Charge, a solar-powered mobile device charger that they began deploying in 25 locations in the Big Apple today (June 18).
Best of all, “It’s all free to the end user,” explains Goal Zero Vice President of sales Bart Miller. The commercial version of Street Charge (Pensa tested a prototype in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood last summer) debuted at Fort Green Park today.
Throughout the summer AT&T will deploy the charging units in high foot traffic areas like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island, Riverside Park, Rockaways, Summerstage in Central Park, Randall’s Island, Governor’s Island, Union Square, and Hudson River Park. The New York Times reports that the project will cost AT&T between $300,000 and $500,000 to deploy
“We’re excited to team up with AT&T and Pensa to help make New York a little greener and solar power a little more accessible,” says Goal Zero President Joe Atkin. “Nearly half of all Americans own a smartphone and the amount of time we spend on handheld devices has increased dramatically. All too often, we hear the dreaded low-battery beep and it happens at the most inconvenient times. Street Charge will fix that.”
The device, at 12 feet tall, looks like a short streetlight with an old-fashioned airplane propeller on its top. It has three of Goal Zero’s 15-watt photovoltaic panels, which charge a 168 watt-hour battery in about four hours. The battery allows the system to charge mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets at one of 6 stations, even at night. In fact, the battery could charge up to six devices for several sunless days.
It’s also like a multi-tool in that it has charging cables for Apple devices—old and new, as well as micro-USB cords and female USB connections for other device users to connect their own charging cords to. The project also helps AT&T ensure its customers—and others—can use their device anytime, anywhere, presumably munching more data and minutes and perhaps racking up extra charges.
“Partnering up with Goal Zero is a great match for us,” said Marco Perry, co-founder of Pensa. “We’re looking to create something that complements its surroundings and invites people to hang out and recharge. We have also found that where people gather, opportunities develop for street vendors and retail, and neglected urban areas come alive.”
But the project also has other potential benefits. For instance, during a blackout or natural disaster, Street Charge can easily be relocated to during such an event to help people charge their devices allowing them reach out to friends and family.
“Today’s the first reveal to the public,” Miller says. However, the devices would be ideal for many high-traffic areas, and he anticipates college campuses, commercial property owners, and festivals could deploy Street Chargers to give mobile devices a quick boost on the go. The devices also offer space for advertising for Street Charge sponsors.