William & Mary to Install Solar Charging Station for Mobile Electronics

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

An artist's rendering of the solar charging station includes environmentally themed William & Mary logos. (Courtesy William & Mary)
An artist’s rendering of the solar charging station includes environmentally themed William & Mary logos. (Courtesy William & Mary)

A project at the College of William & Mary is allowing students to help the environment by using their mobile electronics.

The college’s committee on sustainability is funding the purchase and installation of a solar-powered charging station at a terrace near the Sadler Center.

The charging station will support various mobile electronic devices, including smart phones and laptops.

The station will be incorporated into a picnic table and umbrella, similar to the tables already in place near the Sadler Center.

Solar panels will be installed on top of the umbrella to charge batteries located in the base of the table. The batteries will hold a charge strong enough to power two 110-volt plugs and four USB connections for laptop use and handheld device recharging.

The batteries will also power LED lights, allowing the table to be used at night.

The solar charging station is one of William & Mary’s green fee award projects, an annual group of sustainability initiatives funded by student fees. The committee on sustainability handed out nearly $81,000 to support the 2015 initiatives, including $7,500 for the charging station.

The solar charging station was the brainchild of Dr. Randy Chambers, a professor of biology at William & Mary. Chambers said he supports the expansion of solar power, and the charging station would make it more visible to the William & Mary community.

“The impetus was simply to be an opportunity for people to be more aware of the potential for solar power,” Chambers said. “They might see solar panels on someone’s roof, or on a VDOT sign, but this is an opportunity to demonstrate that closer to campus.”

Chambers said the visibility of the panels and the direct connection to users — like charging a smart phone — had certain benefits over what a larger-scale but less visible project could have.

“You have a building like William & Mary Hall, which has a few acres of space on its roof where you could put solar panels,” Chambers said. “That could generate about 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity, and would reduce the college’s carbon footprint, but students don’t go up to the roof of William & Mary Hall.”

William & Mary Director of Sustainability Calandra Waters-Lake said the charging station could be ready by the fall semester. Although the college could add more charging stations in the future, Waters-Lake said they would not be sweeping the campus, largely due to their high cost.

“There’s a possibility for more, but this is really a pilot,” she said. “It’s not something where we see hundreds of them popping up, but there could be more depending on the success of this first one.”

Chambers did say he was excited about the potential or expanded solar use at the college, an idea Waters-Lake echoed.

“We’re looking into how feasible it is at William & Mary,” she said. “We’re looking at different buildings, different arrays and areas of campus with potential.”