Just what is that thing at the corner of Mint and Graham streets, across from Bank of America Stadium in Uptown Charlotte?
The metallic structure stands about 13 feet high and 14 feet wide and resembles a tree with solar panels for branches.
Offering a space to rest and recharge, the eTree represents the latest in outdoor lighting technology. One of two such eTrees in the United States, it employs solar panels mounted on "branches.” This solar power supplies six USB charging ports for mobile devices and provides free Wi-Fi for the surrounding area.
LED lights provide illumination in the dark, a bench offers seating in the shade of a solar panel on sunny days and an LCD screen displays information to help passersby learn more about the installation. It’s also connected to the power grid for when the sun isn’t shining.
David Hinkle, Duke Energy’s outdoor lighting strategy manager, is especially excited about its possibilities. “Smart Cities and the Internet of Things are creating a new arena for engaging our customers with fresh products,” Hinkle said.
“Our team is consistently exploring product and service offerings that bring together new and old technologies in innovative ways,” said Michael Luhrs, Duke Energy vice president of Retail Programs.
Duke Energy will continue to evaluate the potential to install eTrees in courtyards and parks and at schools in its service areas. Future eTrees may include a water fountain and deliver environmental and weather data.
So, the next time you're roaming Uptown Charlotte and your cellphone is dead, or you need some quick Wi-fi, just head for that large metallic tree. You know, the one that looks like the future.