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GTCC Goes Green with Solar Tables

Solar tables in the courtyard between James Williams and Davis Halls
Photo by Salem Reaves

By Salem Reaves

Director of Art Design

If you spend time on any of GTCC’s campuses, you’ve probably noticed some changes in the outdoor seating options. For some students, their favorite meeting spot has been replaced. But for others, a new option encourages them to gather and study outside.

Forty covered picnic tables popped up across each campus, seemingly overnight, in early October. The new tables are equipped with solar panels which power USB ports, outlets, and overhead lights.

Vice President of Operations and Facilities, Mitchell Johnson, says that these tables are the latest in a series of endeavors to make it easier for students and faculty to work outdoors after the pandemic. The earlier addition in this effort was the installation of Wi-Fi that extends into the campus parking lots. “The need to be able to work outside became a driving factor in several efforts that were funded by HEERF [Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund],” which the college has received since 2020, receiving approximately 1.1 million dollars in institutional funds this past quarter. HEERF funds also contributed to student and employee support, technology updates, COVID-19 precautions, and restoring lost revenue from the pandemic during the quarter ending on September 30.

The new tables were placed mainly in existing seating areas on campus. At common meal and break times, such as between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., these areas are often filled with students. Other times in the day, however, the seats are emptier. So far, the technology in the tables is consistently functional. Around sunset, the overhead solar-powered lights turn on automatically.

One concern about these tables is their accessibility. One or two tables in each cluster have one empty space that is not filled by a built-in seat, but it’s unknown if these gaps are suitable for wheelchair access or if they have a different purpose. According to Johnson, “The tables can be modified to allow for wheelchair accessibility and [the college is] looking into making those modifications now that they have been placed and are being used.”

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