DePaul quad adds solar panels

Solar Panels_Connor O'Keefe_3
Six charging stations powered by solar panels have been installed on DePaul’s campuses. They are part of an effort to make DePaul more sustainable. (Connor O’Keefe / The DePaulia)

Four new solar panels in the quad and two in the Loop will decorate DePaul’s campuses in an effort to further involve students in campus sustainability and invigorate campus life.

Each solar panel, which manufacturer EnerFusion, Inc. calls the “Solstice” model, functions as a charging station where students can plug in phones, laptops or any other electronic devices. One side of the station features two standard power outlets, while the other boasts four USB ports. Students supply the cord, and the sun supplies the power.

The Student Government Association (SGA) partners every year with Facility Operations in order to “identify several projects that both save energy and reduce our carbon footprint,” said SGA President Vanessa Cadavillo.

The installation of the solar charging stations serves as a “response to students’ interests to be able to better utilize outdoor space while charging electronics,” she said.

“For all six stations, including the purchase of new picnic tables, the cost was roughly $25,000,” Cadavillo said. The Capital Projects Sustainability Fund financed this project, as well as other initiatives that she said “encourage DePaul members to be more sustainable.”

The stations each require six to eight hours of sunlight for a full charge. Solar energy is converted to usable energy and stored in a battery pack for use day or night, which EnerFusion calls “true off-the-grid of power.” Charging is available any time, but the outlets do require the push of a button (located next to them) to begin routing power. This helps conserve energy when the outlets are not in use, said Frank Matijevic, facility manager on the Lincoln Park campus.

SGA Vice President Ric Popp said that studying students might spend less time out on the quad if their devices are losing power. Hopefully, access to the solar-powered chargers will help maintain the “quad feel” of students always being there, he added.

“It’s going to be nice to be able to sit in the quad with a laptop for a longer period of time,” said freshman Will Letcher.

Matijevic mentioned that the hardest part of the installation process was choosing locations on the quad where the solar panels would absorb the most sunlight. This might take several relocations to get just right. He commended SGA on finding a truly “usable” way to make the “campus more sustainable.” The two Loop-based solar panels will be installed in about a month.

Picnic tables endured modifications to be able to fit the solar panels. Junior Jelani Newsome-Noble said that the Solstice takes up an “awkward” amount of space at the table, taking away comfortable working space and reducing convenient seating “from six people to four.”

Some students wonder how much good the charging stations will do.

“Solar panels are expensive. Is charging devices really the best use of the electricity?” asked freshman Katie Teston. She also voiced concerns about their use in the winter, as did sophomore Alexis Chapa, who thought four stations might be “too many” when the inclement weather of the colder seasons renders them potentially unusable.

But when the weather is fair, many see the bright side to the solar panels as providing a big “convenience” to students, freshman Rachel O’Driscoll said.

The new solar stations gave senior Jake Reuter an opportunity to study in the sun, rather than in the library as he had planned. He said that students who “prefer to do homework outside during nice weather” now have a better chance to do so.