A new portable solar power canopy called the Lotus Mobile is looking to change the solar power market. Solar innovator and creator of this product, Joseph Hui, modeled his design after his love for flowers. Hui’s design allows for the canopy to fold up to protect itself from severe weather.
The Lotus Mobile portable canopy is designed to resemble a Lotus flower. It is lightweight and pole mounted, with a solar canopy composed of 18 petal-like solar modules. The unusual design is delicate-looking but tough enough for its intended use and hopes to chip away at some of the “soft costs” that have been keeping solar power out of reach for many people.
Lotus Flower Inspiration
The Lotus flower is Hui’s inspiration for the design and overall concept of the Lotus Mobile. He is the President and CEO of the company behind the solar powered product, Monarch Power (He is also a big fan of butterflies). Here is a quote from Hui explaining how the Lotus flower inspired him;
“Best of all, you know that you are learning from nature to protect nature, just like the Lotus plant that takes sunlight and water and turns that into fuel, without creating a carbon footprint. The only footprint is a nice architectural shade that your neighbors would find attractive.”
Avoiding “Soft Costs”
One of the major benefits of the Lotus Mobile is that it can avoid many of the “soft costs” of solar power. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about half the cost of a typical solar array consist of installation and grid connection, as well as regulatory obstacles including zoning, permitting and inspections. Because the Lotus Mobil can be a non-permanent or semi-permanent shade canopy, it is possible that it could avoid many of the “soft costs”.
Creating a Low-Cost Solar Power Canopy
There are a few other design elements of the canopy that contribute to low cost solar power. The Lotus Mobile is designed to be an off-grid device with a lightweight design to cut down on the installation costs. Plastic and aluminum parts are the main factors in the reduced weight. They are not as strong as steel frames or glass-based solar panels when it comes to withstanding extreme weather, but that it why the Lotus Mobile easily folds up like a flower. The canopy uses solar tracking and highly efficient solar cells to convert sunlight into both electricity and hot water. Hui anticipates an installed cost of $1.50 per watt, which is better than the conventional $4.00, but falls short of Energy Department’s goal of $1.00 per watt.
The anticipated cost for an installed Lotus Mobile is about $9,000. At that price the payback period should be relatively short, especially in warmer areas where AC is used often. The unique design, lower “soft costs”, and lower price per watt should make the Lotus Mobile a successful solar power product.