Could Airplanes One Day Run on Solar Power?

Solar power has continued to make serious strides in adoption and implementation, not only in residential and commercial building applications, but also through full-scale solar farms and even as alternative fuels in other markets. One such market is aviation, where a solar-powered aircraft is currently showing off what is possible with the latest solar technologies.

Currently, the Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft designed by a Swiss engineering team, is amid its round-the-world flight, piloted by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. The solar plane set out on the first leg of the trip March 9, taking off from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, and landed 13 hours later in Muscat, Oman. The flight plan will take them around the globe in 12 planned flights, showcasing the potential of solar flight.

The team did not set out to revolutionize air travel, as the current design has significant limitations on speed and payload that make it unviable as a replacement to current aircraft. However, the concepts and basic demonstrations seek to showcase the possibility of solar air travel, and inspire and mobilize public enthusiasm and advance solar power technologies even further.

A recent International Business Times article discusses some of the more revolutionary concepts included in the plane’s design, including improved solar cell technology that has nearly twice the efficiency as conventional solar panels. In addition, the plane is essentially capable of nonstop, continuous flight, thanks to innovative new battery storage methods that allow the Solar Impulse 2 to store energy in reserve for use when the sun is down. This is one of the current stalling points in terrestrial widespread solar energy adoption, and the efforts of pioneers like Piccard and Borschberg are helping to drive further advancement in the field. Please contact Solar Solutions for a free solar energy savings estimate.

While true widespread adoption of solar power in air travel may still be many years off, the Solar Impulse team and other innovators in the industry are clearing the way for solar to take off. Through their work, hopes are high that the technology with further improve and lead to expanded applications for solar energy here on solid ground.

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