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Cellphones Handhelds Power

Belgrade Hosts First Public Solar-Powered Cell Charging Station 106

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-a-nice-place-to-visit dept.
arisvega writes "Dead battery in Belgrade, Serbia? Head to the city's Obrenovac district, where a group of students has developed the world's first public charging station powered entirely by solar energy. Known as the Strawberry Tree, the structure's 16 ports support a variety of handhelds, allowing pedestrians to juice up their handhelds in just ten to 15 minutes, at no charge. Its built-in batteries can also store up to a month's worth of back-up energy, enabling the station to hum along at night, or even during Serbia's less sunny seasons. 'Energy from the sun is free, and it would be unethical to charge people to use the Strawberry Tree...We are trying to inspire young people to think about the source of the energy they use, and behave and act responsibly,' said the inventor Milos Milisavljevic (17 years old when he came up with the idea) and now, at the ripe old age of 22, is looking to plant new stations across other Serbian cities."
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Belgrade Hosts First Public Solar-Powered Cell Charging Station

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  • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmat[ ].org ['ter' in gap]> on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:33AM (#36730680) Journal

    'Energy from the sun is free, and it would be unethical to charge people to use the Strawberry Tree...We are trying to inspire young people to think about the source of the energy they use, and behave and act responsibly,' said the inventor Milos Milisavljevic

    If the entire Strawberry Tree installation was free to design, free to build, free to maintain, free to fix after being vandalized, and free of any rents or taxes on the land it stands on . . . then the question of fees would never enter the picture, because Strawberry Trees would already be available everywhere.

    Until then, very few moral codes are irrational enough to condemn a fee for services rendered.

    • No kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:54AM (#36730768)

      Now I should start by saying if they wish to provide this as a free service, I think that is wonderful. I've no objections to people who wish to provide something too people at no cost. If you are willing to eat the costs, time, money, and otherwise, then by all means. Altruism is great.

      However his reasoning is extremely stupid. The sun does not charge for its energy, but then neither does any other source. Uranium charges nothing to release the energy it contains in a nuclear reaction. So why then does it cost money? Well because you have to mine that uranium (and by extension build equipment to mine it), refine it (and of course build a facility to refine it), and then have it operated in a proper reactor to turn it in to useful energy (which again you have to build). That the uranium charges nothing to release its energy has no bearing on there being costs to bring it to a useful state.

      Same deal with solar. The sun bombards the Earth with electromagnetic radiation of many frequencies all the time, and does so at no cost. However, to do almost anything useful with that energy, you have to construct something. Even if it is as simple as capturing the IR to heat something you are going to need things like lenses, mirrors, insulation, etc.

      In this case, of course, you need a bunch of solar panels, batteries, and associated hardware. That is not cheap to make. Solar panels, particularly efficient ones, take a good bit of work to produce and thus have a good bit of costs associated. Now if he wants to eat those costs and provide the service free, good on him. But let's not pretend those costs don't exist.

      Solar power is NOT free. We don't want to go down the road where people think "Oh we don't need to put money towards solar/wind/etc because it is free." Hell no, we need to put money towards it. R&D and deployment isn't cheap. If we want it as one of our energy sources we need to be willing to spend money to make it happen.

      Heck, money is the one and only reason I don't have solar on my condo. I live in a very sunny area, my association would let me do it, I like the idea, and so on. So why the hell don't I have panels? I can't afford it, that's why. The up front cost is too high. I am not a rich person I can't afford to bear it, even though it would pay for itself in a couple decades most likely.

      • by cvtan (752695)
        Thanks for pointing out the technically flawed notion of "free" solar power. Imagine how expensive gas would be if anyone actually had to make the oil we just pump out of the ground!
      • Even if everything about the project would be free, it would not be unethical to ask a fee for providing this service. That's just smart business.
        • by nagnamer (1046654)

          Even if everything about the project would be free, it would not be unethical to ask a fee for providing this service. That's just smart business.

          It's been paid for by the people with their tax money. So I think it's ok that it's free for the same people to use for free.

          • by thej1nx (763573)

            Too bad most governments don't agree with that logic, when they sends you the bill for the electricity from the power-plants funded with your tax money.

            • by nagnamer (1046654)

              Too bad most governments don't agree with that logic, when they sends you the bill for the electricity from the power-plants funded with your tax money.

              I just said it's ok, never that it was universally the case anywhere. In fact, most research done at Belgrade University rarely end up as a free publicly available product.

            • It's a lot easier to persuade for a government to persuade parliament to spend money if it can be sold as an investment rather than a cost.

            • Which western governments still build and run power stations with taxpayer money?
      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        Is there no organization that would provide panels, installation and support for a monthly fee that would be less than paying the local energy company?

        Local solar isn't the solution to everything, but it should be able to save you money on your electric bill if there's a bank or other organization out there that can front you the cost.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          The payoff time for a loan to buy solar panels, inverter, etc. today is around 20 years. This is including all of the available subsidies, rebates and tax incentives that pay for about half of a solar installation.

          While people in the early part of the 20th century planned to buy a single house and live there all of their lives, most people are somewhat more mobile than that today. While a solar electric system has some benefits for selling a house, you aren't going to recoup 100% of the costs if you sell

      • by olau (314197)

        "However his reasoning is extremely stupid."

        Even though he built the thing, I'm sure he didn't consider these things you mention. We can only hope he's reading Slashdot so he can learn of them.

        • by bames53 (300438)

          You're right, he did build it therefore he really should know better than to make such foolish comments. But since he apparently doesn't know better I too hope he's reading Slashdot so he can read the grandparent's correction.

    • by Evtim (1022085) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @04:04AM (#36730792)

      Why everything has to be all about money, money, money?

      Yhea, it is very insightful to point the obvious - that the installation cost money. "No free lunch" can always get you some mod points. Please, introduce a mod +1 (conforming and mindlessly parroting the existing paradigm)

      But you know what - you are surrounded by people giving things for free. Read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy [wikipedia.org]

      Some excerpts to sharpen your appetite:

      ----There are many examples of how a gift economy works in modern culture within a mixed economy, such as marriage, family, friendship, kinship, and social network structures.

      -----Traditional scientific research can be thought of as an information gift economy. Scientists produce research papers and give them away through journals and conferences. Other scientists freely refer to such papers. All scientists can therefore benefit from the increased pool of knowledge. The original scientists receive no direct benefit from others building on their work, except an increase in their reputation. Failure to cite and give credit to original authors (thus depriving them of reputational effects) is considered improper behavior.[27]

      -----In his essay "Homesteading the Noosphere", noted computer programmer Eric S. Raymond opined that open-source software developers have created "a 'gift culture' in which participants compete for prestige by giving time, energy, and creativity away".[29] Members of the Linux community often speak of their community as a gift economy.[30]

      ------Millions of articles are available on Wikipedia, a free on-line encyclopedia, and almost none of its innumerable authors and editors receive any direct material reward.[31][32]

      • by dokc (1562391)
        mod parent up
      • His point is not that giving things away is a bad idea, it's that the reasoning behind it is flawed. I have released a lot of code as Free Software, because doing so costs me nothing other than opportunity costs, it serves to advertise my skills to prospective clients, and because I benefit from bug reports and patches if my code has more than one user. Those are sane and rational reasons for giving stuff away. If I said I give it away because ones and zeros are free and so it's unethical to do anything

        • by nagnamer (1046654)

          If I said I gave it away because it benefits others and makes me feel good about myself, I'd also expect that to be considered a valid reason; it's the reason most people give gifts - they enjoy the reaction of the recipient.

          The reason I don't agree with the reason they quote for releasing this product for free is that it's already been paid for by citizens. It wasn't free. It was paid for. So people who paid for it get to use it for free. I'm also glad they provided it for free, because too many things developed at the Belgrade University never gets into public hands despite being funded by the University (and therefore by taxpayer money).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        -----Traditional scientific research can be thought of as an information gift economy. Scientists produce research papers and give them away through journals and conferences.

        I agree with the ideas you posted. I can't do anything but cry foul that the scientists produce research paper and give them away but the journals charge an arm and a leg for me to access it.
        I mean: I would mind charging for accessing an article, but I can't see the difference between the cost of hosting/downloading an MP3 or a PDF with the article. However, I can buy an MP3 with $0.99, but beat me if I could find any article for less than $25-$30 on the publisher's sites.

        • by nagnamer (1046654)

          I can't do anything but cry foul that the scientists produce research paper and give them away but the journals charge an arm and a leg for me to access it.

          You have to be aware that University of Belgrade is government-funded. It's not a private university. I don't see any reason a private university would give their research papers for free, but a government-run university has an obligation to release their research paper because the citizens pay them to do the research to begin with.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            I don't see any reason a private university would give their research papers for free,

            Then I don't see any reason why it should be called "university" and thus share in the prestige it had no part in building, nor any intention to do so in the future.

            • by nagnamer (1046654)

              Then I don't see any reason why it should be called "university" and thus share in the prestige it had no part in building, nor any intention to do so in the future.

              I agree.

      • by nagnamer (1046654)

        Why everything has to be all about money, money, money?

        It's a cultural issue. Some cultures worship money, and some don't.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        Why everything has to be all about money, money, money?

        Because money is a representation of time and energy, and in a universe ruled by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, everything is about time and energy.

        But you know what - you are surrounded by people giving things for free. Read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy [wikipedia.org]

        Nothing in a "gift economy" is free. This is the same sort of reasoning used by proponents of socialism or communism: "oh, I like it when I get fre stuff!". How ignorant do you have to be in order to not realize that this is just another form of payment? A gift economy is based on the belief that if I give you what you want, you or someone else will give

    • irrational

      According to whose standards?

    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @04:19AM (#36730866)

      Or maybe its because if you charged a fee to use the service, you'd have to increase the price to account for the servicing overhead - either an attendant, or an automated ticket system with cut-off timers and all the associated electronics.

      Instead its better to charge once via taxes or grants and then allow useage for free. More people will use it and the cost of providing the service will be much reduced.

      • by crakbone (860662)
        Just charge for the advertising at the venue. The advertising revenue pays for the equipment and the free service draws the people in to see the advertising.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Until then, very few moral codes are irrational enough to condemn a fee for services rendered.

      And even fewer to condemn educational and charitable works for no fee at all.

      • by inviolet (797804)

        [...] it would be unethical to charge a fee [...]

        Until then, very few moral codes are irrational enough to condemn a fee for services rendered.

        And even fewer to condemn educational and charitable works for no fee at all.

        I offered no judgment of the Strawberry Tree project, or of the inventor's decision to make it free. I only criticized his statement that it would be 'unethical' to charge a fee.

        Sorry to ruin your dopamine rush. I know how delicious it is to jump somebody's case via the internet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Um, what? I've seen these at cafes around Hong Kong over 4 years ago. There were mostly a gimmick but they worked.
    • That's what I don't understand - why don't more businesses use charging stations as a means of attracting customers? Maybe you would have some logistical issues if the customer wanted to walk around the store or shop while their phone is charging (i.e., making sure that the phone was safe from theft), but don't you have a captive audience while they're waiting for it to charge? I was at a local Verizon kiosk in one of the big train stations in Chicago, and while I was talking to one of the sales reps, 3-4 p
  • by olden (772043) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:47AM (#36730738)

    Saw a similar, amateur setup in the tiny harbor of my hometown, NeuchÃtel, Switzerland, maybe, huh, 10 years ago?
    Unfortunately the 8+ different cellphone charging cables provided weren't rugged enough for an outdoor/public setting, and I suspect that frequent damage is what eventually decided the owner to eventually, er, shall I say, pull the plug.

    Also, re charging time: common Li-ion takes 2~3h for a full charge, 15 minutes may be a 80-to-90% top-off...

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      Yea these things pop up every now and again, there was some hitting the news not to long ago... News editors are too dumb to figure out patio table + solar cell = charging station and are constantly impressed by this.

    • OMSI in Portland Oregon [omsi.edu] in the USA has a public and free solar charging station for any electronic devices (lockers keep the devices safe), cars and even electric bicycles. It's owned by OMSI though so maybe that's why they think the Belgrade station is the "first" public charging station.
    • They also had something just like this at Maker Faire. This is definitely not the first.
  • by physburn (1095481) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @04:36AM (#36730934) Homepage Journal
    Wow at a last a useful link to put on my free energy page.

    A capitalist would I think argue with, cost+financing of the solar cells, payment for the workers installing them, plus profit, before setting the price. But even capitalists offer lose leaders for advertising.

    But if a urban council, own the land, then they is a strong case for providing useful services free to the public. How often people need public phone charging I don't know. Since mobile have become popular that the public pay phone is an endangered species, so are free charging points needs. Discuss...

    ---

    Free Energy [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • The world would save on energy if more would step onto the solar energy wagon. It's great to hear people in Serbia are showing the world the way. Proves that the war is truly and well behind. John Wayne Schulz [t35.com]
  • Can this technology be applied to food, please? using a 3D printer, maybe.

  • by bre_dnd (686663) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @05:49AM (#36731178)
    The service is worth something to me, running out of power on your phone while on the go is annoying, so I wouldn't mind paying a small amount for it. Why not add a cashbox to it -- if you like the charging tree and appreciate the service, please leave a donation so we can build more.

    There's no problem with it being free -- but this would be a way to make the idea spread. Some of the components will cost money to buy, some of the installation work might need to be done by a qualified installer / builder. If the first one allows you to keep some cash, it can be reinvested -- more can follow and more people would be able to enjoy the service.

  • by martas (1439879) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @05:59AM (#36731222)
    Get it, "no charge"! Sorry...
  • It seems to me that he claims that "'Energy from the sun is free" not that the station is free. Now maybe he just makes it free as he says he wants to inspire people and had some public funding to pay for this piece. Where does the angst against the word "free" come from here? Peace, love and understanding, dude :)
    • I think the angst comes when people suggest that "public funding" is the same as "free", they're forgetting that someone is actually paying for this - the taxpayer - who, in this transaction, is someone who doesn't have a choice whether they want to pay for it because they'll be thrown in jail for not paying taxes.
  • The saxophone background music in the video is meant to lull you into submission. At least, that's what happened to me.
  • Take a look at the freely provided services from the IT sector, Google for example. They provide numerous, extremely useful services for no charge. Additionally, there are no taxes incurred for the use or association of these services. Linux is another good example.

    Now we ask the question, what covers the cost of fabrication, installation, servicing, and all things associated with the unit's life-cycle? How are the other free services paid for? Many are paid for via advertising. Take for example the possibi

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