Strawberry Tree: A Free, Public, Solar-Powered Charging Station

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A team of students from the University of Belgrade in Serbia have come up with a smart idea for a solar-powered phone charging station on the street. Known to the locals as “the Strawberry Tree“, it looks more like an art installation than a public utility.

Below the solar cell there’s a wooden bench where members of the public can sit and chat with their neighbors while waiting for a power top-up on their phones. The BBC’s reporter Mark Lowen managed to get a full recharge of his iPhone 4 in about 15 minutes.

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The team has set up a business called Strawberry Energy, and they’ve already won a European Union sustainable energy award.

The project isn’t just about charging phones, though. It’s supposed to make people think about energy and where it comes from. Its presence in the street is a useful reminder, even to passers-by who don’t need to charge anything. It’s also a social space, a point where people can gather and chat. You know, like people did before social networking.

Solar energy itself is changing, too. Advances in technology are rapidly bringing down the cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells, which means they’re becoming easier and more cost-effective.

The next logical step is to install solar cells in places where they can be put to best use. On buildings, sure, but this Serbian project shows that with a little clever design and lateral thinking, solar can be far more flexible than expected.

Perhaps it won’t be long before we start seeing Strawberry Trees shooting up in our streets, parks and parking lots.

(via BBC News)

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