The first attempt at an around the world flight powered completely by solar cells will be setting off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, according to the team behind Solar Impulse. With a 63 meter wing span, the Solar Impulse 2 plane took its first flight in 2009 and has been smashing records every since — this latest being the ultimate prize the team hopes to win in 2015.
Supported by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government’s renewable energy investment arm, the Solar Impulse is “the only airplane of perpetual endurance.” This means it can fly 24 hours a day without any fuel and relying only on solar energy. The project is being funded by the Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. Piccard actually co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world with Swiss business man Andre Borschberg. This latest endeavor leaves their last cross country flight to New York in the dust. Piccard says enthusiastically, “With each of their great firsts, the explorers of the last century constantly pushed back the limits of the impossible. Today, the drive to make new discoveries must go on, with the aim of improving the quality of life on our planet.” Solar Impulse is just one of many international projects that Masdar has undertaken recently. Ahmad Belhoul, who took over as chief executive of Masdar in March, says that with Solar Impulse the team “wanted to demonstrate the viability of this revolutionary clean technology.”
“Just imagine your energy reserves increasing during flight!” Says Borschberg. To do this the team had to “Make maximum use of every single watt supplied by the sun, storing any surplus in our batteries.” Masdar is not just investing in solar cells, however. It has begun building the new headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Masdar City, designed to be a test bed for sustainable living. In Jordan, Masdar is building the first utility-scale wind farm. Costing $290 million and running at 117 megawatts, the Tafila Wind Farm will expand the country’s total power capacity by 3 percent when it’s powered up in 2015. In Europe it is investing in offshore wind farms in a big way. It has joined Norway firms Statoil and Statkraft in the delivery of Dudgeon, a 402 megawatt wind farm being built off the east coast of the UK. Whatever it undertakes, one thing is certain, Masdar and its protagonists are not afraid to think big.
Via Solar Impulse
All images via Boing Boing