Solar-Powered Wi-Fi/Charging Stations Might Be Great, Might Be A Disaster

June 12, 2015 | Liam Mathews

On Saturday, the prototype of the Cooper Lumen, a solar-powered wi-fi hotspot and mobile device charging station, will be set up for public demonstration on the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place as part of the the Cooper Square Committee’s Second Ave. Festival, the Villager reports.

The Cooper Lumen was devised by Paul Garrin, whom the Villager describes as an “East Village Internet pioneer,” and engineering students from Cooper Union. Garrin came up with the idea for a solar-powered internet hub in the aftermath of Sandy, when electricity was out in much of the city. The Cooper Lumen is 10 feet tall and can function with everything but its top submerged underwater.

The City will be converting phone booths into wi-fi stations, but Garrin wants to put up Lumens in areas where there aren’t phone booths, like East River Park.

Obviously, a solar powered wi-fi hotspot/charging station would be incredibly useful. As an experiment, this is a great project. But in practice, I worry that it would just be another thing clogging sidewalks and distracting people from their immediate surroundings. Imagine sitting on a park bench next to a clump of people yakking on their phones, charging their iPods, and complaining about how it’s not working fast enough. As a city, we certainly could use the Cooper Lumen, but do we deserve it?

(Photo: Cooper Union Alumni Association)