Solar Outpost is a nice place to work on a green roof in Brooklyn

solar table
© Matt Kovaleski

There's a big green roof on top of the Williamsburg offices of Vice, like TreeHugger a little website started by an expat Canadian. There is what looks like a picnic table with a solar panel sunshade nestled in the planting. The project was designed by Uhuru Design with Third Partners doing the engineering and and installation of the solar and electrical components. Project lead Matt Kovaleski describes it as " a space for urbanites to relax in the shade while charging whatever they need off clean energy."

It is a full free-standing self-sufficient off-grid system with batteries and inverters. Matt tells us:

The design, engineering and wire routing were all developed in CATIA, from which all fabrication drawings and part orders were done. The intent was to provide a space for Vice employees to work or relax outside on and charge anything they might need via solar while doing so. The unit has six three prong outlets and four USB ports. On an average day’s yield in NYC the system supports more than 12 hours of continuous laptop charging, four tablet charges, 12 smartphone charges and keep 2 LED light bulbs on overnight.

It's a lovely green roof too, designed by Gwen Schantz of Brooklyn Grange Farm. they say it does "a really nice job of incorporating native plants as well as herbs and vegetables and some natural elements like slate paths, so it really does feel like a secluded garden."

If you are going to work on your computer outside you need shade, and the solar panels set up over the table conveniently provide it. You are going to need power, and the battery bank and inverter provide that. Matt notes that "the transition to alternative energy has been and will be incremental, with societies slowly changing the way they power their lives. The solar outpost is a transitional step that makes clean energy available to anyone."

It is built from lumber recycled from an old Brooklyn water tower. "We took the material of an icon of NYC's past and used it to give form to an icon of a sustainable future." I think that is a bit of a lost opportunity; nobody using the Solar Outpost is going to know they are sitting on a bank of batteries and an inverter, that they are plugged into a seriously off-grid independent system. But they will find out during the next New York blackout, when the whole company is huddled 'round the table on the roof of Vice headquarters.

Solar Outpost is a nice place to work on a green roof in Brooklyn
Designer Matt Kovaleski integrates a solar power system into a picnic table setup for workers at Vice

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