Ryan Chartrand

Many great minds have studied it. It powers our cell phones and terrorist cannot touch it. Give up? It’s the sunlight.

The movement is on to equip cities with the ability to operate using their own generated electricity.

Professor David Braun invited John Perlin from the University of Santa Barbara physics department and co-producer of “The Power of the Sun,” to speak after the film and answer questions. The Cal Poly movie premiere event took place in the Fisher Science building Oct. 4 as part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) monthly meetings series. Around 100 people attended.

The 56-minute documentary covered early light theories and discussed the latest in solar technology used in the United States and abroad.

“I always felt that solar power could help the environment if technology improved enough to make it a possibility,” said attendee Kelly Seiler.

The fifth year electrical engineering student spoke about how something as simple as a redesigned light bulb, light emitting diodes (LED) that uses half the wattage of a regular light bulb, helps the save energy.

The element silicon has replaced the old energy resource coal.

Perlin said that within the last 10 years silicon has seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in demand.

“The beauty of silicon is that it’s everywhere.”

Start up companies dedicate all their resources to produce better photovoltaics (PV). Solar cells are used in conjunction with PV in order to produce electricity.

Cal Poly is one of the few CSU campuses to experiment with PV panels when it installed 1,000 on top of the Engineering West building.

Other local places in California that are using PV technology is the Santa Monica Pier to power its Ferris wheel and San Francisco’s Moscone Center, where 30,000 PV panels were installed that, saving the city $200,000 a year.

Both cities and rural areas can benefit from solar technology.

The film highlighted an organization called Light Up the World, who provides solar-powered battery flashlights to families in countries such as Nepal in order to give people a better life. Solar powered equipment is a better option than having children breathe in kerosene fuels while they try to do their homework.

Countries Japan and Germany lead the way in encouraging the use of PV. Japan operates entire factories and apartment buildings off of solar power.

Each year there is a step forward in making solar power more affordable, companies like Shell and Sharp are among the big names investing in this venture.

An idea a Massachusetts company is experimenting with is placing solar cells on a texture similar to photographic film so that developers can coat or print the photovoltaic material on any item. The idea is to make clothing, handbags, pretty much anything that has the ability to turn into electricity capable of doing so.

“What’s interesting is that electrical engineering, materials management, control systems, design circuits, those all across the board have an opportunity in this industry,” electrical engineering transfer Tim Gerrits said.

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