Imagine building an airplane capable of flying night and day without fuel. Solely propelled by solar energy. This is the vision that led to the creation of the Solar Impulse programme. The aim of the project is to develop a symbol which will attractively promote a pioneering and innovative spirit. Particularly, in the field of energy saving and renewable energy. After the success of our first historical 26 hours flight in 2010, our goal is to cross the USA in 2013 and to fly around the world in 2015.
Our success however will not only come from completing a round-the-world tour without fuel. But it will also stem from our ability to inspire and motivate everyone to implement the necessary measures to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
As one of the project initiator, I am convinced that with a pioneering spirit, the use of clean technologies and political vision, we can stop the planet from wasting natural resources. With an airplane that does not consume any fuel, we are able to demonstrate the potential of new technologies in terms of saving energy and producing renewable energies.
What matters is that what we are able to achieve in the air, everybody can do on the ground in their everyday lives.
Indeed, the technological solutions that allow Solar Impulse to fly both day and night are accessible to all and are replicable in everyday life. These are not secret, futuristic technologies. If they were used routinely in our society, we would be able to save 50% of our consumption of fossil energies and to produce half of the rest with renewable energies.
This project is designed to put forward energy solutions as well as the environmental and political solutions used from a decidedly constructive angle. Ultimately, we aim to stimulate enthusiasm and the necessary motivation to leave behind this pervading fatalism. Aviation makes you dream, feeds your passions. A plane that flies without fuel and achieves something everyone imagined impossible and hopefully, will fire up our imaginations. I also hope it will encourage many people to invest in the practical solutions that our society needs.
We keep hearing that renewable energies can never replace fossil fuels. In addition, that renewables are too expensive. We believe that these arguments are false. Indeed, as long as we will waste energy, renewables cannot compensate for this waste. We must therefore start by saving, that is by using clean technologies to reduce our consumption. This can be done by insulating buildings, modernising heating and air conditioning systems, using LED lighting and putting electric or hybrid engines in cars, developing smart grids.
Doing all this will create new jobs, new products, new markets. It would improve living standards and increase purchasing power. And above all it will ultimately improve the country’s trade balance, since every penny not spent abroad on oil, gas or coal could be invested locally in sustainable infrastructure.
As for renewable production, we can do this just as much at an individual level by installing solar panels on roofs as on an industrial level by building solar, geothermal or biomass plants, wind or water turbines.
This airplane shows that anything can happen in terms of energy efficiency, aerodynamic performance, lightness and strength of materials. All this is used in our daily lives for lifts, cars, boars, and airplanes. We use insulation materials which can be used in all homes and household appliances. The engines can be used for electric cars. Batteries have also progressed as a direct consequence of our project.
Co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse
Featured image credit: Solar Impulse