Solar power is blooming at the Central University of Technology (CUT) campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom. The two campuses will have fully equipped solar phone chargers by the end of August. The solar-flower prototype project involves having cell phone/tablet charging stations for CUT’s students using solar energy.
Head of the Department Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at CUT, Herman Vermaak, says the project was an idea that came from identifying student needs and forms part of the varsity’s efforts to make more use of renewable energy.
“The basic technology is as old as the mountains because we are making use of the sun’s energy to get power. So the solar flower has four leaves that are each a 10Watt solar panel. From there we are getting a 2hour electronic circuit, that we have designed and developed, it then goes out to a normal USB plug. Students can then come with their normal USB cables and plug in and charge,” said Vermaak.
The stations are designed to charge all cell phone makes and models. Each station can charge up to four devices in one go.
The prototype was designed and developed by the Electrical Department at the varsity and was launched last year in May. Eight of the ten brand new solar flowers will be strategically placed on the Bloemfontein campus (to serve the almost 11 000 strong student body) and the other two will be at the Welkom campus with a student population of just more than 2 500.
There are also plans to expand the project. “This was part of the first efforts and project to make the campus green. We are now looking at developing and designing a bigger charging place where the students can charge their laptops as well. With the possibilities to have the panels charge devices at night as well,” added Vermaak.