September 28, 2016

New solar charging station a $20,000 waste

uncharged

Illustration by Victoria Courtney

If you frequent the area on campus between the East Academic Building (EAB) and the parking garage, you may have noticed the installation of the EnGo Public Charging Station over the past month. While this charging station helps the university fit a green space requirement and is actually a pretty good idea in theory, the installation on this campus is a mistake — a $20,000 mistake according to Webster’s news page.

The first issue is convenience. A charging station is simply not going to be useful to any Webster University students. As St. Louis natives know, the weather here is unpredictable, and eight months out of the year, most people wouldn’t want to stand around outside waiting for their smartphone or tablet to charge. I can only imagine a handful of days when the weather would be appropriate for anybody to stand outside to charge a mobile device. This alone makes the charging station a waste of money.

But on the topic of waste, Webster officials are adamant about reminding everyone how sustainable Webster is. While a solar- and kinetic-powered charging station itself is sustainable, this charging station is not a worthwhile investment. Wasting money on something nobody will use is the opposite of sustainable.

The $20,000 spent on this charging station could’ve been put toward much more worthwhile investments, such as funding to conduct energy audits on buildings around campus. Installing solar panels on buildings — like what was done last year on the Visual Arts Studio  — would be a smarter use of money. Working toward making more buildings Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified is another great way to show Webster’s commitment to sustainability. While these examples could cost more money in the long run, it would surely be a worthwhile investment, seeing as these are facilities that students will actually use.

In addition, the charging station suffers from various other problems. A more central location for the charging station, a place where students actually congregate, like the quad, would’ve helped its case as a worthwhile investment. Since it’s essentially located in the corner of campus, only a fraction of students who go to class in the EAB will use it. As a result, it isn’t economic for residents or commuter students who spend their time in other buildings across campus.

Considering such a big chunk of money was spent on this, I would expect the cost of the station to line up with its usefulness to the student body. Unfortunately, it just isn’t cost effective. Essentially, buying this charging station was like buying a fake diamond. It’s shiny, it’s new and it looks nice, but it isn’t worth anything.

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