The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on May 24, in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco. Solar Impulse, piloted by Andre Borschberg, is expected to land in Madrid for a stopover before heading to Morocco without using a drop of fuel. Bertrand Piccard will pilot the second leg on to Rabat, scheduled to leave Madrid on May 28 at the earliest.
The president of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard, helps pilot Andre Borschberg prepare for takeoff on May 24, in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.
AP reports — An experimental solar-powered airplane took off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight Thursday, aiming to reach North Africa next week.
Pilot Andre Borschberg planned to take the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane on its first leg to Madrid, Spain, by Friday. His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the aircraft for the second stretch of its 1,554-mile journey to the Moroccan capital Rabat.
Fog on the runway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather.
“We can’t fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,” Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 207-foot wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 43.5 miles an hour.
Before landing in Madrid in the early hours of Friday, Borschberg will face other challenges, including having to overfly the Pyrenees, the mountains that separate France and Spain.
Just in case things go disastrously wrong, Borschberg has a parachute inside his tiny cabin that he hopes never to use. “When you take an umbrella it never rains,” he joked in a satellite call with The Associated Press.
Japan Sets Sights on Solar Future
As it shifts from nuclear power following the Fukushima radiation disaster, Japan is positioning itself to become the second largest market for solar power. The country introduced incentives for renewable energy that could expand revenue in this area to more than $30 billion by 2016. In the U.K., energy from renewable sources accounted for roughly 12.4 percent of the European Union’s overall consumption, with Estonia recording the largest increase between 2006 and 2010.
Germany, who also opted to move away from nuclear by 2022, is feeling the burden of its decision. Miranda Schreurs, director of the Environmental Policy Research Center at Berlin Free University, said, “The way for Germany to compete in the long run is to become the most energy-efficient and resource-efficient market, and to expand on an export market in the process.” If Germany succeeds, Technology Review reported, it could provide a workable blueprint for other industrialized nations.
A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds the prospects for renewable energy, at least in the U.S., to be promising—concluding it could supply 80 percent of the country’s electricity by 2050.