Serbian students develop solar mobile chargers
It was in
high school that Milos Milisavljevic started putting into practice his ideas of sustainable energy and organising his colleagues around projects related to that. Back then they developed a model of a house that could use renewable energy. They presented it in other schools as well as in research centres in Serbia.
Later, during the studies at the Belgrade University Electrical Engineering School , some five years ago, he gathered another group of enthusiastic colleagues for the project of solar charger for mobile phones and other gadgets
such as digital cameras, tablet computers, and others.
started from the technical aspects of the device, soon realising they would need students from other fields (architecture, civil engineering, marketing ) to design and promote what they named Strawberry Tree – a public solar charger for mobile phones and other digital devices.
As a result of their joint work, and with the help of some public institutions and businesses, since 2010 the solar charger is available in several Serbian towns, including the capital city of Belgrade (where it was launched in October 2011).
What started as a self-organised extra-curriculum activity is now a company employing nine people .
The project got an award in the category saving public spending for energy use in a competition regarding practical use of sustainable energy organised by the European Commission in spring 2011.
This July, Strawberry Energy received, - along with several other companies in Serbia, grants from the EU for further innovative projects. In the same month, new “solar tree” has been put in use in Kikinda, town in northern part of Serbia.
Solar trees have become quite popular soon after launching. The one in Belgrade had
10,000 charges within the first 14 days. In Novi Sad it was used 50,000 times in less than five months. A mobile version of the charger was also developed; it’s being posted in festivals, concerts, and sports competitions . In Brussels, the charger was placed in front of the Commission’s building, and used by the Commission’s staff, which attracted good publicity for the project. Apart from being often presented in Serbian media, it was featured in a BBC programme and on Time magazine’s website.
All this is happening in an environment
where an active concern for the environment and renewable energy use in particular is slow to develop. During Serbia’s general elections campaigns in April and May, environmental issues were scarcely present.
Serbia has good potential for exploiting different types of renewable energy, the country is still using very small part of it, according to Serbia’s Investment and Export Promotion Agency. Yet, some positive changes have been announced. Serbia should get a big solar park in the following years (reportedly, it could be the biggest in the world).
Milos Milisavljevic says that his and his colleagues’
experience with the state institutions and businesses was rather positive: “ Of course, it can always be better, but we are satisfied.” In particular, he adds, that positive attitude has been expressed since the EU award. As far as general awareness of the need to protect the environment is concerned, he has noticed that, despite the fact that it is still beyond that in western European countries, some positive trends could be observed as compared to five years ago.
endeavours are meant to educate citizens in a simple and practical way, such as recharging phone battery while around in the city. Now they plan new partnerships that would result in new solar trees being built - in public spaces, and in front of institutions such as banks, schools and others . Other projects that would include bringing renewable energy into citizens’ everyday lives are also being prepared.
In the talk given at TEDx Youth event (in Serbian), Milos elaborated on the importance of targeted perseverance coupled with good ideas. His work so far has shown that he has both of these, and that his favourite maxim which refers to the possibility of turning imagination into reality, instead of choosing between the two, is indeed achievable.