The advent of mobile solar power

In the aftermath of Sandy, mobile solar power – both on a fairly big scale and the cell-phone charging level – came to the rescue of some powerless residents.

Now an Arizona company is promoting a pretty and pretty spectacular version that’s apparently lightweight enough to transport in a small car.

The 18-panel device folds up and unfolds like a nyctinastic flower and the idea is that it can be used to power an electric vehicle, home appliance or whatever here in the developed world, while providing for more basic needs in less privileged places.

The system is called Lotus Mobile, and it’s offered by Monarch Power, a company started by Joseph Hui, an orange Tesla Roadster-driving Arizona State electrical engineering professor and self-styled solar inventor and entrepreneur.

And if the image you see above looks familiar, that’s because a year ago, this same device — or something similar — was immobile, and was called the Solar Lotus (below).

Monarch posted a video to YouTUbe on March 15 that the company said would be used to launch a Kickstarter campaign this past Monday. However, as of Thursday, no such campaign had appeared.

In any case, the video says that the Lotus Mobile will sell at an “introductory price” of $3,999, but that the first 50 contributors to the Kickstarter would get it for $3,199. The company said federal and state (in Arizona) tax credits could cut that price by 55 percent, to $1,440. The company said the first 100 orders will be shipped in the fourth quarter this year.

While the company has pictured the system in outrageously expensive fast cars, Hui, in the video, says it has a noble purpose: To bring solar power to “places where it’s most needed,” from “close by in the Nation of Navajo” to the Mongolian steppe (where portable solar is already become an important part of life) to Masi villages in Tanzania.

Specs on the device weren’t provided, but Monarch said that the “Lotus Mobile follows the sun on two axes, giving 30% more power than rooftop solar panels. It’s also less expensive because of significantly less structural support, since 70% of the traditional panel system cost is related to architectural placement.”

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling