Friday, May 24

Solar charging umbrellas installed on Kerckhoff patio

The USAC Facilities Commission and ASUCLA added five solar umbrellas with charging stations on Kerckhoff patio Wednesday. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

The USAC Facilities Commission and ASUCLA added five solar umbrellas with charging stations on Kerckhoff patio Wednesday. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

Students can now charge their cell phones at outdoor charging stations on Kerckhoff patio.

Associated Students UCLA worked with the Undergraduate Students Association Council to have five solar umbrellas with USB ports installed Wednesday morning, said USAC Facilities Commissioner Sandra Rhee. The umbrellas cost $11,155 and hold three charging ports each.

The Green Initiative Fund paid for the umbrellas. TGIF provides money to student groups working on sustainability projects. In May, students voted to support the program for $4.80 per quarter.

Rhee said her office estimated in their TGIF application that the umbrellas will save about 732 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions and cost $126 to operate per year. Electricity generators that use natural gas release about 1.22 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. One kilowatt hour is the electrical energy equivalent to power consumption of 1,000 watts for one hour.

ASUCLA director Roy Champawat said there is no specific projection of financial savings from the umbrellas. He added most savings may not be directly from the ASUCLA power bill, but he still thinks some power will be saved.

“Some modest quantity of power would be saved, but the primary purpose would be sustainability and convenience for our students, given the total ASUCLA annual power cost of $750,000,” Champawat said in an email statement.

Rhee said she thinks the umbrellas are a good way to educate students about renewable energy sources.

“It shows students, staff, visitors and anyone that comes to UCLA that you can integrate sustainable technology into your daily life,” she said.

She added that her office plans to work with ASUCLA to install more umbrellas on the patio or the second floor of the John Wooden Center. They are considering a different version of the same umbrella, which is more expensive but capable of charging laptops.

“Unfortunately, I think the school has seen a recurring situation where students are finding it hard to find study spaces indoors,” Rhee said.

Some students said they think the umbrellas are a good idea, but some questioned whether they will really be useful.

Myles Byrne, a first-year electrical engineering student, said he thinks the umbrellas are a good idea, but not worth it in terms of the cost.

“I get that they’re trying to show that they’re using renewable energy, but they can use other means to show this,” he said.

Byrne added he thinks the other solar umbrellas in Ackerman do not get used often.

“When the batteries are full and people aren’t charging their phones, (the umbrellas) are just being wasted,” he said. “It would be a good idea (instead) to invest in solar panels that will be connected to the grid and will actually be used by the buildings on campus.”

Jamie Liu, a third-year environmental science student, said she thinks finding a place to charge her computer is more of a problem than finding a place to charge her phone.

She added she would also like to see more use of solar energy on campus.

“Students have to know (about renewable energy), because if they don’t know exactly how it’s being used, they’re less likely to support it (and find ways to) use it themselves,” she said.

Laura Martinez, a third-year environmental science student, said she does not think it is a big deal that student fees are paying for the umbrellas, since money is spent on different things anyway and this is at least an effort to help students.

“If you’re studying and you don’t want to break out of your mode, it (may be) helpful to have these outdoor chargers,” Martinez said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but there are better ways to improve (the use of renewable energy).”

Alexis Rojas, a second-year biochemistry student, said he does not think the price is too high but understands if some students might not like the idea of paying for the umbrellas, especially if they do not use them.

Rojas also said he thinks students shouldn’t be confined to a building if they want to charge their phones.

“(The umbrellas) would be good if they help in the long run, but if they’re not making a big change I don’t see the point of them,” Rojas said. “It depends how much people use them.”

Contributing reports from David Yaghutiel, Daily Bruin contributor.

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