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Princeton parklet energizes parking space with the help of the Andlinger Center

Published on June 9, 2017 by Sharon Adarlo

Pedestrians in downtown Princeton can take a break from shopping, charge their cell phones, and learn about clean energy technologies at a new outdoor pavilion, or parklet, that features solar panels, micro wind turbines, hydroelectric pumps, and bicycle-powered electrical generators.

Located at 25 Palmer Square East in front of the JaZams toy store, the recently completed parklet is a public art installation that turns ordinary curbside parking into a welcoming community space – in this case, an “energy playground.” The Arts Council of Princeton led the project with the help of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University and other sponsors.

Princeton faculty members – Daniel Steingart, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Forrest Meggers, assistant professor of architecture, who are both jointly appointed to the Andlinger Center – took part in the design and construction of the parklet and the installation of the green technologies.

“We deployed some of the technology we use in research, which is wonderful,” said Meggers, who spoke at the media event.

Lynn Loo, director of the Andlinger Center, said she was excited that the center participated in the project because it aligns with the center’s mission to develop solutions for the world’s energy and environmental future.

“The parklet raises awareness of energy and environmental issues because it shows different forms of sustainable energy that already exist and can be deployed right now. And it shows how you can convert energy from one form to another,” said Loo, who also attended the media event.

Five themed “rooms” built on terraced platforms make up the parklet, which was designed by Joseph Hobart Weiss, a local Princeton architect. In the first room, stationary bicycles connect to generators that power a string of lights in a JaZams window display. The “reading room” has bench seating and a small library. The “game room” features various games from JaZams; above it features micro wind turbines that convert wind into electrical energy. The “engine room” consists of two scaled-down hydroelectric generators: a hand pump and a churn that feed water into two large storage tubes, whose flow into turbines generate energy. The “sun room” has solar panels overhead and seating.

A battery on site stores power that is generated during the day to power overhang lights and energy sensors at night. It also provides electricity for the cell phone charging stations. Computer monitors in a JaZams window display track the amount of watts generated and the intermittency of the renewable energy sources. Some parts of the parklet’s structure also consist of a composite material recycled from fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired energy plants.

The public is invited to the opening celebration for the parklet on Saturday, June 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. at 25 Palmer Square East in Princeton in front of JaZams. There will be ice cream and refreshments at the event.

In addition to the Andlinger Center, the parklet’s lead sponsors include the School of Architecture, JaZams, Joseph Hobart Weiss Architect, NRG Energy, and Hamilton Building Supply. The project was also made possible by Davidge Design Studio, Halo Pub, Kopps Cycles, MacLean Agency, the Municipality of Princeton, Nassau Inn, Palmer Square Management, Princeton Public Library, Smith’s Ace Hardware, Sustainable Princeton, Teresa’s Café, Thames & Kosmos, , and ThinkForm Architects.