Goal Zero's solar charging products are a favorite here at TUAW, and the company loves New Yorkers -- it provided a number of charging products during the power outages after last fall's Hurricane Sandy. Now Goal Zero, AT&T and Brooklyn-based design studio PENSA are teaming up to offer public solar-powered charging stations in NYC. Street Charge will be going live today at Fort Greene Park, with a total of 25 units bringing power to the people this summer.
Additional Street Charge devices will be installed as the summer heats up at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island, Riverside Park, Rockaways, Summerstage in Central Park, Randall's Island, Governor's Island, Union Square and Hudson River Park. The 90-day trial program is light-impact -- solar power means no digging up parks or pathways to lay cable.
The top of the "metal tree" is covered with three monocrystalline solar panels to charge up batteries located in the "trunk." There are three tiny tables, equipped with built-in charging cords for iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and phones with micro-USB connectors. Each of the USB ports provides five volts at up to two amps of current (10 watts), enough to fully charge an iPhone in about two hours although the companies expect most people to just "top off" their devices. That current level is compatible with iPad fast charging as well. Three female USB connectors are also available for those who bring their own cords. The bottom of the "branches" feature LED lights to illuminate the area at night.
The design of the Street Charge units is also perfect for striking up a conversation with others while your phone is getting juice. Neil Giacobbi of AT&T was quoted about that social aspect on The Verge this morning, saying "What's [the charger scene] going to be like at 4:30 in the morning in Union Square? I have no idea, but we're going to find out."
AT&T hasn't said if it will sponsor Street Charge units in other metropolitan areas, but those who are interested in the solar charging stations can get a quote on how much it will cost to deploy one or more in their city. You can also check out this Serbian park charger, flagged by a Verge commenter as an early example of the genre.