Solar benches in the Balkans: Innovative and green

About a month ago, I visited Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and, in my opinion, one of the most attractive and modern capitals in the region. It was around the 1st of May, the International Workers’ Day, and I was spending my time mostly in the Bundek Park with a couple of my friends. This park is known for being the place to go to around this holiday and the reasons are various: concerts, amusement park, hamburgers and cold draught beer by the lake. However, walking around the park I noticed a new thing going on that added to the excitement. It was the brand new park benches stretched along the walkway. I asked my friend what it was and he said “This is a place where you can charge your phone.” He then showed me the spot on the side of the bench and there I saw two USB plug-ins. And that’s two of them on both sides of the bench, meaning four phones could be charged at the same time.

These solar benches can work up to ten days without the sunlight, staying charged with the solar energy and offering the nature lovers free charging even on a cloudy day. It also recognizes when the weather is going to be rainy or snowy in which case it turns off automatically in order to save energy. It possesses a free wireless air-conditioning system in order to keep the adequate temperature and provides light at night. Another advantage of these benches is that they are quite resistant to physical damage and vandal attacks, as well as corrosion. It also has an in-built sensor in case of theft.

How the “smart benches” came to be Great example of a win-win situation, showing how creative innovation can lead to successful business model which has positive impact on environment)

A couple of years ago, the city introduced this new eco-friendly innovation that catches the eye of its citizens as well as tourists visiting it. In 2016, Zagreb has received the so-called “smart benches” all throughout the city. It was Ivan Mrvoš, a young student of the Faculty of Electrotechnics, Engineering and Shipbuilding at the University of Split, that came up with the idea to create such a bench with a solar panel on top of it that would absorb the solar energy and at the same time be of use not only to people that use new technology products, such as androids and tablets, but also to those that need a place to sit down for practical reasons, such as elderly people. It turned out to be a perfect idea, a win-win deal for the citizens of Croatia. At the age of only 21, Mrvoš immediately became a business target for more than 160 investors coming from Middle East countries all the way to Japan. His start-up company called InClude already sold benches to nine countries such as the United States, Denmark, Australia and Slovakia. As one of his biggest competitors in the region, Mrvoš mentioned a company from Serbia called Strawberry Energy, benches of which according to him have similar characteristics and quality as those of his company but are around five times more expensive than his.

I find it very interesting to hear about this kind of “rivalry” in the Balkans. In fact, it’s a competition in who is going to provide a healthier environment for their society. The “smart benches” are truly smart, since they manage to raise awareness on the necessity of the use of solar potentials which saves money, reduces costs, and attracts people to pay more attention to the nature that surrounds us. My hope is that the exchange of ideas of this kind will contribute to the opening of the trade market in the whole region where each country has an opportunity to promote its ideas and sell its products, while the citizens would profit by enjoying a healthier lifestyle. 

Author: Tomislav Perušić

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Tomislav is a graduate of the High School of Economics in 2009 in Subotica, Serbia. Moreover, he continued his studies in Economics at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, from 2009 to 2011, while currently, he is studying Albanian Language, Literature and Culture at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. 

Tomislav’s experience in volunteering, working as a translator, correspondent and being an active member of society is enriching. He has worked as a correspondent for a Croatian newspaper in Subotica, Serbia, called “Hrvatska riječ” (Croatian word) since 2009. An activist of an NGO called Žene u crnom (Women in Black) in Belgrade, Serbia, and translator from Serbian to English and vice-versa since 2015.  

In addition, he has participated in numerous seminars for the Albanian language since 2016, as well as Links2 program organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights regarding Kosovo - Serbia dialogue, held in 2016 in Prishtina, Kosovo, and Belgrade, Serbia. Took part in Gender Studies Summer School in 2016 in Prishtina, Kosovo. 

Tomislav has knowledge and communicates in a number of languages such as: Serbian, Croatian, English, Albanian, Hungarian, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. 

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