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Solar-powered charging stations that boost smartphone batteries hit Somerville, Boston

They look like futuristic phone booths. But instead of stepping inside and dropping a quarter in a slot to make a call, people can plug in their smartphones to charge them, and then just walk away.

Both Somerville and Boston recently installed solar-powered charging stations for people’s handheld devices in busy parts of their respective cities.

Somerville placed WrightGrid’s sun-reliant stations in Davis Square, Union Square, and Ball Square as part of a two-month pilot that began earlier this month. The rollout of the stations was launched through the city’s GreenTech program, which offers energy-efficient businesses the chance to test “green products” in the community.

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“We . . . are excited to be launching our first pilot program in the city where we got our start. We are grateful to have such a forward-thinking municipal partner,” said Ryan Wright, WrightGrid’s founder, in a statement.

Boston introduced WrightGrid’s technology to two locations at City Hall Plaza Tuesday, as part of a similar pilot program sponsored by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office and Babson College.

“The addition of WrightGrid’s solar-powered mobile charging stations to City Hall Plaza will help us offer people yet another way to stay connected, allowing them to power up their devices in a secure, sustainable way,” Walsh said in a statement.

Stations feature a 150-watt solar panel that towers over the structures. Users can walk up to a station, connect their smartphone or other mobile device to a cord inside one of multiple compartments, and lock it away. They can then feel free to explore the neighborhood, and stop into area bars or restaurants, before returning to a fully-charged phone.

“It provides an opportunity for people in an emergency situation to recharge their phones. I can leave my phone behind, and charge up, and then go out and about,” said Somerville spokesman Daniel DeMaina.

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He said the lockers are secure, and users shouldn’t be afraid to leave devices behind.

Charging in the booths, called Model Zs, is free.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.