The newest outdoor study spot on NC State’s campus is powered by the sun.
Three 9-foot umbrellas located between Tucker and Owen Residence Halls feature solar panels powering lithium ion battery hubs, which each offer three USB ports for charging mobile devices as fast as a wall outlet.
“The solar umbrellas will enable students to remain outdoors for longer by providing a source of electricity to charge their devices and by providing shade,” said student Ryan Kilgore, who helped lead the project to install the solar umbrellas.
Kilgore is part of the NC State Stewards, a student sustainability leadership program supported by the University Sustainability Office. Several of the Stewards became interested in a solar energy project last year when University Housing employee Kathleen Ruppe mentioned her desire to provide students on Central Campus with access to renewable energy.
“The solar umbrella project arose from a desire to help put NC State on the forefront of sustainable innovation while also directly increasing the utility and pleasantness of our campus,” Kilgore said. “The umbrellas are located in a high-visibility area so that they impact a large number of students.”
In addition to making outdoor study spaces more feasible, the solar umbrellas provide access to shade as well as a sustainable energy source during power outages. Funding for the project came from the NC State Sustainability Fund, which is generated by a $2 per semester fee paid by students. The Stewards submitted an application for grant funding last spring and the Fund’s student-led board awarded funding for the project in May. University Housing, as well as several units within the Facilities Division, collaborated to ensure a successful installation.
“There are so many stakeholders that mentored our team through this project and assisted us in making it a reality,” Kilgore said. “Having solar on campus shows that NC State is not only embracing but leading the way when it comes to sustainable innovations.”