By Bud Braughton, Project Manager, City of Columbus
Smart is just the start” — it’s something we say frequently at Smart Columbus.
Smart Columbus is the smart city initiative of the Columbus region. The program was initiated after Columbus beat out 77 other cities to win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Smart City Challenge in 2016. As the winner, Columbus won the distinction as “America’s Smart City,” and $50 million in grant funding — $40 million from the USDOT to discover how new transportation technologies can improve quality of life and $10 million from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, primarily by electrifying the transportation sector.
Through these opportunities, we’ll use data and technology to transform transportation in our city — but that’s just the start. We believe that by improving transportation, we can improve quality of life, attract economic growth, improve safety and foster sustainability in our region.
Smart Columbus has partnered with more than 100 organizations across the region to solve real problems by using new mobility and sustainability technologies. Recently, we partnered with Ohio Dominican University to do just that.
As the winner of the Smart City Challenge, Smart Columbus was connected with DC Solar Freedom, an organization that manufactures mobile solar stations capable of powering lighting towers and electric vehicle charging stations. DC Solar committed to a $1.5 million in-kind donation of their technology to Central Ohio universities and public agencies in support of Smart Columbus’ goal to decarbonize power generation in the region.
As we were researching potential applications of mobile solar technology, we became aware of a need on Ohio Dominican’s campus: the intramural field and tennis courts near Panther Stadium and the surrounding parking lots were in need of better lighting. Officials from ODU invited Smart Columbus and DC Solar to tour the campus to learn more.
After reviewing ODU’s lighting and technology needs, DC Solar made a generous commitment of 24 solar energy products, including electric vehicle charging stations, light towers, power stations and generators, together valued at more than $3.6 million, far exceeding DC Solar’s initial project commitment.
By deploying equipment for the intramural fields and parking lots, ODU has benefited from enhanced safety through improved lighting, without adding demand on the city’s power grid or generating emissions. The university also has been able to power its electric public safety vehicle, further fostering sustainability on campus. Students, staff and faculty can now participate in activities they enjoy, move about campus in a more safe and sustainable way, and even charge their cell phones, tablets and mobile devices so they can be more productive while they are out and about.
And the technology deployment and its benefits are — as we say — just the start. Deploying the mobile solar technology helps to inspire innovation among Ohio Dominican students who will influence technology adoption and deployment for years to come. By creating this environment where students have access to and can learn from advanced, sustainable technology, we are creating a culture that not only will lead these students to demand smarter and cleaner technologies in the future, but will also lead them to invent the technologies that will follow.
In Ohio Dominican, we discovered a tremendous energy, passion and eagerness for sustainability and innovation that made them an exceptional partner for this advanced initiative. Now that’s smart.