Dead battery in Belgrade? Head to the city's Obrenovac district, where a group of students has developed the world's first public charging station powered entirely by solar energy. Known as the Strawberry Tree, the structure's 16 ports support a variety of handhelds, allowing pedestrians to juice up their cell phones in just ten to 15 minutes, at no charge. Its built-in batteries can also store up to a month's worth of back-up energy, enabling the station to hum along at night, or even during Serbia's less sunny seasons. In the first 40 days following its November launch, the Strawberry Tree logged some 10,000 charging sessions -- or about ten charges per hour. Creator Miloš Milisavljevic was just 17 years old when he came up with the idea, and now, at the ripe old age of 22, is looking to plant new stations across other Serbian cities, through his Strawberry Energy NGO. He says these installations won't generate much revenue from consumers, but that's not really the idea:

"Energy from the sun is free, and it would be unethical to charge people to use the Strawberry Tree...We are trying to inspire young people to think about the source of the energy they use, and behave and act responsibly."

You can check out the Strawberry Tree in the video below, or find out more about Milisavljevic's ideal-driven endeavors in the full PR.


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Renewable energy in the palm of your hand

A public solar-powered mobile device charging point called the "Strawberry Tree" in the
centre of Belgrade's Obrenovac district is attracting users of all ages, informing about
sustainable energy, and inspiring youth to behave responsibly.

Miloš Milisavljevi was just 17 years old when the inspiration hit him. He was working on a
school project on sustainable energy. "We wanted to find the best ways of promoting
renewable energy, and knew that to do that we needed to reach people's emotions.
Everybody has their own problems. To capture their attention we needed to make something
from which they will personally benefit."

Knowing that five billion mobile telephones are in use around the world, and that the number
will only grow, Milisavljevi connected the dots.

"I thought that maybe we could help by building a station where people could use solar
power in public spaces to recharge their telephones and other mobile devices like iPods." he
said. "This introduces a direct trigger: solar power is relevant. Solar power provides
solutions."

This idea that Milisavljevi hatched in high school is now a reality. The original proto-types
and models were entirely self-financed. He approached the Belgrade municipality, and city
officials quickly recognised the value of the project, built the charger and installed it in the
Obrenovac district of Belgrade.

Now called a "Strawberry Tree," the first station was installed in November 2010. In its first
40 days of use, 10,000 charging sessions were logged. That equates to an average of about
10 sessions every hour! There is no charge to users to plug-in to the power source. "Energy
from the sun is free, and it would be unethical to charge people to use the Strawberry Tree,"
Milisavljevi explained. Belgrade has plans to build and install three more stations around the
city in the coming months.

Each charging sessions takes about 10-15 minutes. Milisavljevi maintains that the charging
station also offers a social benefit. As the users wait, they have no choice but to gather
around the tree. "Discussion of the benefits of solar power is inevitable as people congregate
in the shadows of the Strawberry Tree," he says. "We are trying to inspire young people to
think about the source of the energy they use, and behave and act responsibly."

A true entrepreneur, Milisavljevi organises his renewable energy projects within the NGO he
created called "Strawberry Energy." What's behind the name? "We like the symbolism of
strawberries. They are the first fruit of the spring season. That represents leadership,
innovation. Plus, in ancient times the strawberry was a symbol for love and perfection. That
works for us, too."

Milisavljevi , now 22, plans to finish his studies in electrical engineering this autumn, and
then head off to complete a masters degree. But meanwhile, Strawberry Energy is in
negotiations with several other cities in Serbia and the surrounding interested in introducing a
charging point in their local communities. "Our sole desire is to spread the word of
sustainable energy and try to make the world a better place, as much as we can."

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Strawberry Tree brings free, solar-powered charging to Belgrade's BlackBerrys, more (video)