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Solar Panels Take Flight with Solar Impulse

It may have started with Horace de Saussure in the form of a hot box in 1767 but in time, we’ve accomplished so much more. These days, alternative energy is everywhere, as installing solar panels on both residential and commercial properties seems to be one of the more recent green initiatives for homes and businesses all over the world. However, with advancements in solar energy being made every day, it’s not hard to believe that visionaries all over the world are willing to test just how far we can take it.

For example, how about flying a plane using solar power? Okay, so there have been aircrafts flown on solar power during daylight hours before, but two Swiss men, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, have set out to take it one step further: fly a solar plane – at night. What is even more extraordinary is their plan for Solar Impulse to circumnavigate the world in 2015.

With Bob Simon reporting, CBS’s 60 Minutes recently aired a behind the scenes look with Piccard and Borschberg, where it was stated that the ultimate goal of the Solar Impulse is to “fly around the world without burning an ounce of fuel.” How is this possible? Well, the “thousands of solar cells on its wings transmit enough energy to batteries to keep it in the sky from sunset to sunrise.” The Solar Impulse’s design is built with high tech materials that are extremely lightweight. Twelve thousand solar cells make up the surface of the wing and “capture the energy of the sun and transform it into electricity,” which then goes to the engines and those batteries


Earlier in 2012, The Solar Impulse completed its longest flight from Switzerland to Spain to Morocco and then back to Switzerland. Still soaring from that rush, planning has already begun for flight across the United States (from California to Virginia) in 2013. Then, stopping along the way, the pilots will take turns in 2015 to circumnavigate the world. The trip will take 20 days and 20 nights, with five days and nights spent flying over the Pacific Ocean.

The entire concept may be a little hard to swallow, but considering how far we have come already, are there really many doubts in the abilities of solar energy? Bertrand Piccard said it best when he stated, “the ultimate power is the sun.”


(Posted by: Louis Petrik of Longhorn Solar)