Cell phone battery about to die and no outlet in sight? If you’re waiting for a GoRaleigh bus or walking around Downtown Raleigh, you will soon be in luck.
The City of Raleigh Department of Transportation and the City’s Office of Sustainability are installing three solar-powered cellphone charging stations. The installations are expected to be complete early this month.
One of the charging stations will be placed in Market Plaza in Downtown and a second station will be installed in nearby Exchange Plaza. Both pedestrian plazas are located in the 200 block of Fayetteville Street. The third charging station will provide power at the bus stop at the intersection of Morrill Drive and Cates Avenue in partnership with North Carolina State University. The bus stop is shared by GoRaleigh, GoTriangle, and N.C. State’s Wolfline. The pilot program will help determine the best locations for the charging stations, so users should expect that installation locations will likely change over time.
Soofa Benches, made in America from sustainably harvested materials, feature two USB plug-ins that use the power of the sun to power up cellphones. The free service is available on a first-come, first-served basis to users who bring their own cord.
The charging stations will be a benefit not only to cellphone users but to the City of Raleigh as well. Sensors monitor activity in outdoor public areas so the City can see in real-time how people are using the spaces, providing information on the success of different programs, special events and the space itself correlated with weather data.
“Innovation is imperative in a growing city like Raleigh,” Transportation Director Michael Rogers said. “Our desire to stay relevant to our citizens’ needs will keep Raleigh moving forward. Communication devices are important in this day and age, and I am excited that the City will be able to provide free cellphone charging stations within these benches.”
Robert Hinson, project champion and renewable energy coordinator for the City of Raleigh, appreciates that “we will be able to showcase the benefits of renewable solar energy to power technology right in front of the users.”
The pilot program fits well with Soofa’s mission. Sandra Richter, Soofa cofounder and CEO, said the City of Raleigh “embodies everything we look for in a partner, from being willing to take risks to improve the quality of life for residents to working seamlessly internally to bring new ideas to life.”
“Since founding Soofa in 2014 we have been fortunate to partner with innovative and inspiring cities that care deeply about providing the highest level of service to their citizens,” she said. “We couldn’t be more excited and look forward to deepening our relationship with Raleigh over the coming years.”
Soofa connects City infrastructure to the Internet, embedding electronics into everyday objects to turn them into smart urban furniture. Founded by a team of female engineers and designers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Soofa’s flagship product, the Soofa Bench, was piloted with the City of Boston in 2014. Based on the product’s success, Soofa Benches are now installed in 23 states in the nation and more than 65 cities.
For more information, visit www.raleighnc.gov