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Solar plane makes history after completing round-the-world trip

PHOTOVOLTAIC NEWS
26/07/2016

Solar Impulse 2, which landed in Abu Dhabi, is first plane powered by the renewable energy source to tour the globe

Solar Impulse 2 has completed the first round-the-world flight by a solar-powered aeroplane, after touching down in Abu Dhabi early on Tuesday.

The plane, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carries more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, began the circumnavigation in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi. It has since crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans using no fossil fuel and has spent more than 23 days in the air.

“I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy. All the clean technologies we use, they can be used everywhere. So we have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. It is up to every person in a house to take it further, every head of state, every mayor in a city, every entrepreneur or CEO of a company. These technologies now can make the world much better and we have to use them, not only for the environment, but also because they are profitable and create jobs.” Bertrand Piccard (pilot)

During daylight, the solar panels charged the plane’s batteries, which make up a quarter of the craft’s 2.3 tonne weight. The pilot also climbed to 29,000 feet during the day and glided down to 5,000 feet at night, to conserve power. The plane flies at about 30mph, although it can go faster if the sun is bright.

The aim of the Solar Impulse adventure was not to develop solar-powered planes for widespread use, but to show the capabilities of renewable energy.

“I worked for 15 years to have [this] demonstration of the improvements of these technologies, so now I really want to leverage this demonstration and create a world council for clean technologies,” Piccard said. “That will allow all these experts and specialists to advise the governments and big corporations on which types of technology to use to profitably fight climate change and profitably protect the environment.”

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said: “Solar Impulse has flown more than 40,000 kilometers without fuel, but with an inexhaustible supply of energy and inspiration. This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity.

“You may be ending your around the world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future.”

Source: The Guardian