If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, then you’ll know that the first trip around the world using solar energy has been achieved. A prototype plane by the name of Solar Impulse 2 has made it’s way around the globe with a single pilot, and spent a little more than 23 days in the air. What was the point of this exercise? According to the pilot, Bertrand Piccard, it wasn’t aimed at changing commercial flights. Instead, it was done to prove how effective solar power can be when used correctly. More importantly, it proved that the world doesn’t have any excuse to stick to conventional methods.
The plane has a wingspan of 72m that carries no less than 17 000 solar cells, and it weighs 2.3 ton. In terms of speed it can reach up to 140km/h and it can fly for about 8 000km without stopping. During the day Piccard elevated the plane to 29 000 feet, where the energy was enough to keep the plane going and to charge the batteries. At night he glided the plane at 5 000 feet, which is how he conserved energy. Given that there’s only room for one pilot, the cabin isn’t pressurized and the turbulence was nerve-wracking, it wasn’t an easy trip to make. But not a drop of fossil fuel was used at any point. In fact, it didn’t leave any carbon footprint on its 40 000km journey.
Piccard, a Swiss citizen, made headlines when he attempted the first balloon ride around the world without stopping. But for this particular mission he spent more than 6 years getting his license to fly a prototype plane, and 15 years putting his vision for renewable energy into action. Of course there were complications along the way, but these were rooted in weather conditions and financial strains. Other than that, it was a wonderful success.
The Solar Impulse team is hoping that nations and governments around the world finally realize how incredible solar technologies have become. If used correctly it can turn the tide on climate change, and hopefully, restore some kind of balance.