Bringing solar power to the street with the Strawberry Tree

This blog post is written by Milos Milisavljevíc, the Founder and Chief Executive of Strawberry energy, as part of the New Cities Foundation's WhatWorks series, and is republished with permission.

Mobile communication is part of our everyday lives. Can you imagine a day without a mobile phone nearby to make calls whenever needed, or a smartphone to answer to an urgent email?

Digital technology has become something we all rely on to perform basic activities. We take mobile phones for granted, acting as if they will be there in every situation. We can go everywhere and be reached, call for help, perform business from anywhere, share how we are feeling with friends, and access timely information wherever we are. We can even act as if we are cleverer than we actually are (while Googling under the table)... It makes me wonder how people lived before without this piece of electronics.

With mobile phones, we don’t need to worry about a thing... or do we?

The only problem is that mobile communication needs to be powered, and usually in places or during moments that we haven't predicted. What if this small gadget lets us down and runs out of power, like in Murphy's law, at the most urgent moment? You are on the go, outside all day, scarcely letting your smartphone out of your hand as you continually post on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter... and puff! The battery is down to 5%. Let's go further: you are supposed to meet with a friend in a cafe in some remote part of town. You're terribly late, phone in hand to find the address on the map and to call your friend to apologize for being late. Right at that moment your mobile phone doesn't react. No power. What a mess. No power? You look into the sky and glimpse the ultimate symbol of power: the sun.

Harnessing the power of the sun

Do you know that in one hour, the sun emits enough energy to Earth to satisfy the energy needs of our planet for a year? Yet, too bad, we're not harnessing it enough. You're in the street, you badly need energy, and energy is everywhere, just as Nikola Tesla said: "We are whirling through endless space with an inconceivable speed, all around us everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly. Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides."

The question is: How much are citizens aware of the benefits of these clean sources of energy, and why we should use them against current ways of generating energy? I won't speak about how CO2 emissions affect our ecosystem; I will just ask you all, how often do you make use of an alternative energy source? What do you know about the resources available, or have you yourself found a cool way of harnessing renewable energy?

Showing the power of renewable energy in our everyday lives

I believe that the best way to direct everybody's thoughts toward this subject is very simple: showing the power of renewable energy sources in people's everyday lives and solving their problems with clean, green solutions.

That is how the idea of our public solar charger for mobile devices, Strawberry Tree, arose. Strawberry Tree is a piece of green urban furniture and a Wi-Fi station, where solar energy is harnessed and delivered to anyone who wants it, no matter the weather. Thanks to its rechargeable batteries and smart electronics, energy is saved, optimized, and ready for users during the night, and when it's raining or snowing.

Strawberry Tree is a 'green' alternative in the middle of the town. Instead of using 'dirty sources' of energy, people can recharge mobile devices in an eco-friendly way and contribute to lower CO2 emission by their own action. By satisfying society's constant wish to communicate, which can be jeopardized because of an empty battery, Strawberry Tree makes people's lives easier and safer.

Building a community of sustainable energy advocates

In this way, Strawberry Tree is far more than a useful tool for charging phones. It's also a fantastic reminder to citizens of the power and potential of renewable energy. The tree helps spark positive attitudes towards adopting a sustainable lifestyle, its users becoming ambassadors of their city's 'green movement'.

Finally, Strawberry Tree not only helps citizens make that call or open that email that they needed to read. Situated in public space, and drawing together a haphazard mix of citizens, it is a fantastic tool for sparking serendipitous encounters among city-dwellers who might not otherwise meet each other.

Sustainable urban solutions start with citizens

I believe that the true secret of achieving sustainability for a city must rest with its citizens and their willingness to be environmentally conscious. Strawberry Tree is a practical example of a renewable energy source that motivates people to become active advocates of sustainable urban solutions.

Whereas individual efforts may be a small victory, we help our users see that they are not alone. We believe that, by making citizens aware that their small contribution is part of a bigger, more powerful whole, then every city can turn into a smart one.

Milos Milisavljevíc heads up Strawberry energy, overseeing the company's day-to-day functioning, as well as business strategy development. He is one of the creators of the Strawberry Tree.

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