They may look like picnic tables, but these aren’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill wood tables sold at your local home store.
Maryville College in Tennessee has become the latest college campus to install “Solar Doks”, off-grid solar powered picnic tables made from recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and equipped with three 45-watt solar panels per side and a single 100-watt panel on top. Made and sold by EnerFusion at a cost of $11,000 each, the tables come with all the necessary technological comforts of home in the great outdoors.
Each Solar Dok seats eight and provides built-in power outlets, USB ports, battery backups and energy consumption monitors. An adjustable umbrella can be maneuvered to offer both additional shade and harness more solar gain, depending on the position of the sun. And because of the battery backup, the tables can be used after the sun goes down thanks to the two LED lights on timers.
Associate professor of art Dr. Adrienne Schwarte from Maryville College told The Daily Times that they “wanted them to be a sort of social pod” and I am supposing she will get her wish. Students and faculty alike will be able to work or hold classes outside, which is always a mood booster. Maryville joins the University of Florida, Vanderbuilt, Texas A&M, and several other institutions in installing the Solar Doks, and let’s hope we see them popping up in more outdoor public spaces off-campus as well. They would provide a place to sit down out of the sun for a few minutes along with a free laptop or cellphone charge on the go.
Watch a video demonstration of the Solar Dok below: