Flying the Friendly Skies – With the Power of the Sun

Another milestone for solar-charged travel was eclipsed last week when the solar-powered plane “Solar Impulse” landed in Morocco on June 5, 2012.

The plane took off from Madrid and landed safely in Morocco after an amazing 19-hour flight over the Straight of Gibraltar.

The plane required 12,000 solar cells to stay aloft at its cruising speed of 44 MPH. While its airspeed is nearly 10 times slower than most traditional commercial aircraft, the plane continues to prove its advanced technological ability.

Morocco was a fitting, and likely symbolic, destination as the kingdom is in the process of building a vast network of solar and wind farms which will provide 15% of Europe’s electricity supply by the year 2050.

This is the second major milestone in solar-powered travel over the past several months. In May 2012, the Tûranor PlanetSolar–a catamaran that runs solely on solar energy – found safe harbor in Monaco after a 32,000 mile journey around the world.

The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of €90m, involving engineers from a number of European partners. The group has now demonstrated that a solar-powered airplane can fly day and night using no fuel.

With land, water and now air conquered, the team has proven that progress is possible using clean forms of energy. But how long will it take before solar-powered travel will be the norm, rather than the exception?

Article by Tim Laughlin, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

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