Engie stole headlines in France last week after Guillaume Barucq, an official in the municipal government of Biarritz, tweeted his enthusiasm for a number of solar benches the power group had installed in the small coastal city.
Amusingly, Barucq also urged citizens not to sit on the benches for long periods of time, on concerns that seated bottoms could reduce their energy yield. His comments were quickly mocked by dozens of social media users.
But what is the purpose of the benches if nobody is able to sit on them? Weighing 170 kg, the Steora smart benches – designed by Croatian startup Include – offer 160 W of power and include a 55 Ah battery. And via three USB outputs, an inductive charger and wifi transmitter, they can also recharge mobile phones and provide access to the internet.
“All Steora models have the same PV modules, device charging, wifi, ambient light, data collection, cooling system and dashboard,” Include says.
In a later tweet, Engie justified the design of the benches by placing them within the context of the global eco-responsibility agenda the G-7 nations plan to push at their upcoming summit in Biarritz. The company has also confirmed to pv magazine that the benches have already been set up in countries with stronger solar resources, such as the United Arab Emirates.
Five more solar benches in Cannes
The municipality of Cannes recently installed solar benches as part of its Smart City project, which aims to develop new technologies that improve the local quality of life. The authorities acquired three solar benches in 2018 and two new ones earlier this month.
The Steora benches in Cannes have thus far been spared the derision seen in Biarritz. In fact, on the Cannes municipal government website, the mayor has praised the benches for their design, comfort and additional features.
However, Include claims that the benches can produce energy even when they are shaded. “The advanced controller inside the bench allows the charging of the battery even when the photovoltaic modules are not exposed in direct sunlight, while users are sitting,” it said.