Bloem students plug into 'Solar Flower'

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The Central University of Technology, in South Africa’s Free State, has developed a solar-powered charging station that is now set for further roll-out.

The Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, at Central University of Technology (CUT), in Bloemfontein, has unveiled a prototype solar-powered charging station dubbed the ‘Solar Flower’.

Designed by the CUT engineering team, this solar-powered charging station can charge up to four electronic devices at a time, using USB ports.

While only one charging station is currently available, the university is looking to place a number of stations all over campus and then rolling the project out to rural schools in the community.

According to professor Herman Vermaak, Acting Dean of the engineering faculty, it took only two weeks to develop the charging station at a roughly estimated cost of less than R2,000. “We have seen a marked increase in the daily use of electronic equipment by students. With this increase, the idea came to develop a device that harnesses energy from a renewable source and gives students an easy, accessible and free charging facility.”

Vermaak says although initial roll-out of the Solar Flower in the community will be funded by CUT, it hopes to attract some business investment to be able to do it on a bigger scale at a later stage.

The Solar Flower project represents one of the ways CUT is committed to the drive towards a greener future. Two new courses are set to be introduced in 2014 and 2015, respectively – a higher certificate in Renewable Energy Technologies and a diploma in Sustainable Energy.

According to Vermaak, these courses were designed to help develop more renewable energy technicians and energy advisor/auditors in the country, who will be able to install and maintain renewable innovations in the industry and advise consumers on available renewable energy devices.