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(Note: Event reported in DK post on 6/6.)

June 5th, 2012, became a red-letter day for solar energy, as Bertrand Piccard landed the Solar Impulse solar-powered airplane under a full moon in Rabat, Morocco. The flight, which started in Madrid, marked the first intercontinental flight for a solar airplane. And its next jump will take the Solar Impulse to Ouarzazate, Morocco, where workers will soon begin building the world's largest solar thermal electricity generation complex. The Solar Impulse has Airbus-size wings, but its weight is only that of an average car. The wings carry 12,000 photovoltaic solar cells, which make electricity to store in the plane's lithium batteries, and to power the brushless motors for its four propellers. It can take off at a speed of just 22 mph (35 km/h), and cruises at an average speed of 43 mph (70 km/h). It flew day and night during its 19-hour Madrid-to-Rabat trip, and landed with fully-charged batteries. Piccard, who made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, founded the Solar Impulse project along with engineer and pilot Andre Borschberg. Piccard drummed-up backing for the project, and Borschberg assembled and led the project team. The team has now begun work on the next Solar Impulse model, which would fly an around-the-world tour in 2014 -- the same year the Ouarzazate plant would begin operation. Looking further ahead to the development of lighter batteries, yet another Solar Impulse model may be built to carry two pilots for a non-stop around-the-world flight.

Solar Impulse lands in Rabat 2012-06-05

Solar Impulse takes off 2011-05-13

(From The Paragraph.) [Sources] (Click for FREE BOOK.)

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By Quinn Hungeski,, Copyright (CC BY-ND) 2012

Originally posted to The Paragraph on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:08 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kosowatt.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ancestor of Jean Luc? n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hungeski, 8ackgr0und N015e

    --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

    by chipoliwog on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:20:25 PM PDT

  •  Very exciting! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Once again, the US is not at the forefront of innovation.  I think we are seeing the decline and fall....

  •  Impressive, meaningful progress (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hungeski, Odysseus

    We probably won't see commercial solar powered planes (okay, maybe not in MY lifetime), but the lessons learned in getting Solar Impulse over the hurdles it has made to date have very positive and profound implications for other, very near term applications.

    Looking forward to reading about the progress on the Solar Thermal facility at Ouarzazate.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 04:40:03 AM PDT

  •  This is really interesting. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hungeski, Russgirl

    Solar will very likely never be powerful enough to power commercial airplanes via plane-attached solar, but the likelihood that we may see electric planes powered by ground-based renewables with the next few decades is actually quite high.  EADS/Airbus has a really interesting electric plane concept, for example:

    EADS VoltAir Concept The EV Of The Skies

    by Nino Marchetti
    Global aerospace company EADS certainly has been a busy bee when it comes to greening airplanes of late. Earlier today we mentioned a biofuel/hydrogen powered concept jet that could travel Mach 4. Before that we brought you word of EADS subsidiary Airbus and its concept eco airplane cabin from the future. Now it is all about the VoltAir all electric propulsion system concept .

    EADS said the VoltAir concept envisions a zero emission air vehicle which could become a reality within 20 years. In this vision, a “next-generation electric energy storage system (batteries) will power highly efficient superconducting electric motors which drive counter-rotating, shrouded propellers.” The company believes that this system, coupled with an interesting approach to airframe design, “could pave the way towards ultra-quiet and emission-free flight.”

    It's nice to see the solar glider land in Morocco, the country with the most ambitious renewable energy program in all of Africa.

    Tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 08:02:12 AM PDT

    •  Can batteries keep improving ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... something like computer memory? If so, it seems the sky's the limit!

      The Paragraph: Terse news, history and science.

      by hungeski on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 08:18:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  above the clouds (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Even when using ground-based renewables, I'd like to keep the plane-attached solar. It seems natural, since the vehicle would often be in the sunny region above the clouds.

      The Paragraph: Terse news, history and science.

      by hungeski on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 08:36:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We'll probably see thin-film solar or solar paint (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Russgirl, hungeski

        on planes, cars, trucks, ad trains much earlier, as it could reduce fuel costs and it weighs very little.  Traditional solar panels are too heavy, though.

        And yeah, the power of the sun is definitely top-notch above the clouds.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 09:06:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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