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 In Solar Buzz

California State University, Chico welcomes students to the start of a new semester with a unique solar-powered charging station for portable and mobile electronics at the Bell Memorial Union (BMU) terrace. The student-led project is the culmination of a year of design, review and planning in exchange for academic credit as part of the Capstone Design Program through the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mechatronic Engineering and Sustainable Manufacturing.

Workers conduct work on the solar charging station at the Bell Memorial Union.The facility opened to users Tuesday, August 23, and the media are invited to meet faculty and students responsible for the project during a showcase of the station at 11 a.m. Thursday, August 25.

The station is a stand-alone, off-grid electrical system powered by a 600-watt solar photovoltaic array of thin-film panels and a 12-volt, 780-amp battery bank. Located on the terrace between the BMU and the Student Services Center, it will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Fridays. It offers eight traditional 120-volt outlets and four USB charging stations. Users must provide their own charging cables.

According to its student designers, the project is the first solar-powered charging station in the nation to utilize thin-film photovoltaic panels, which are more versatile, resilient and efficient than traditional panels. It is also the first to provide users with the ability to monitor power generation and consumption in real-time, a service that will soon be available on the University website.

In addition to supporting campus sustainability initiatives, the solar charging station is a demonstration of academic excellence where a team of engineering students designed and built a unique campus facility with the guidance of faculty and technical staff who shared their theoretical and hands-on expertise, said professor Greg Kallio, the Capstone Design Project advisor. The project was completed by students Salam Ali, Erik Marquis, Jairo Orozco, Maythem Alhaddad and Chou Vang, who all graduated in spring 2016.

“It’s so exciting to know I gave back to a University that gave me so much, to utilize the knowledge we gained here and say, ‘This is our thank-you—this is the culmination of our knowledge,’” said Ali, the project manager. “It fills me with pride, for myself, for my college and for the University.”

The $16,000 project was funded through the Sustainability Fund Allocation Committee and the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management (ECC). College of ECC technical staff, Facilities Management and Services, and Transfer Flow, Inc., of Chico provided specialized fabrication and assembly to complete the installation.

Read the press release.

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