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Brewer: Arizona-based product shows bright future for solar energy

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer said her dedication to solar energy can be seen on the roof of her house, where she's had solar panels since the 1970s.

Under a bright sun Wednesday in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Brewer said solar is the key to the state's future.

"Arizona was made for solar energy," she said.

Brewer joined speakers from the Arizona Corporation Commission and Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the debut of a solar unit designed to fold up during inclement weather.

Scottsdale-based Monarch Power developed the Lotus Mobile to provide a portable source of power that, unlike traditional solar panels, doesn't need to be attached to an electric grid.

The Lotus Mobile features petal-like panels that move to track the sun's course across the sky and fold in on themselves for protection.

The project's inventor, Arizona State University professor and Monarch Power CEO Joseph Hui, said his inspiration comes from two sources: butterflies and lotus flowers.

"It's a beautiful thing, and besides the beauty it generates power also," he said.

His love of butterflies contributed to his car, a bright orange Tesla Roadster that's charged by a version of his solar panels.

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Lotus Mobile helps show that Arizona is well on its way to becoming "the solar capital of the world."

Susan Bitter Smith, a Republican newly elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission, said Arizona benefits from solar energy companies.

"Monarch Power is a great example of our entrepreneurialism in the state," she said.

The Lotus Mobile's ability to provide power without being connected to an electrical grid is crucial for bringing electricity to rural areas and Third World countries, said Slobodan Petrovic, an electrochemistry professor at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Williamsville.

"It's the ideal solution for bringing renewable solar energy to the forgotten people in Africa and South America," he said.

Arizona ranks second in the nation in solar panel installation, trailing only California, according to an annual report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.

For Hui, the attraction to solar energy is simple to explain.

"We need to think about what makes us happy," he said. "Sunshine makes us happy."

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