Up Up And Away On Solar Power

by Dennis Machicao

Last month, in June, New York City was visited by the first world largest all solar powered boat, the MS Turanor PlanetSolar, from Switzerland on its exploratory voyage to gather data along the Gulf Stream and continuing and concluding its expedition in Bergen, Norway.

And this month, New York City was once again privileged to host a visit from another all solar vehicle, the Solar Impulse. Like the MS Turanor PlanetSolar ship with its origins in Switzerland, two Swiss pilots, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard took turns at the controls of the Solar Impulse the world’s first all solar airplane that can fly both day and night without any alternative fuels. New York was the conclusion of a five stop journey cost to cost flight across the United States bringing attention to the use of sustainable energy in transportation and in particular flight.

The Solar Impulse’s massive wings are covered with solar panels that can capture solar energy to power its four electric motors and store energy in its onboard batteries so it can fly at night when there is no sun. Its sustainable energy expedition started in the San Francisco area with stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati Washington and touching down at JFK airport in New York.

There have been other flights. In 2010 the pilots flew a record setting 26-hour overnight flight and in 2012 they journeyed from Switzerland to Morocco, across the Mediterranean and within Europe. But flying coast-to-coast in the US was the pilots’ most anticipated challenge.

Like all things new, they did have their moments in flight that they will use as data to improve future solar aircraft. The wings are rather expansive but with further development and tweaking I’m sure future solar aircraft will be refined much like all electronics changed from their infancy to now as far as power and size.

But one thing for sure, the MS Turanor PlanetSolar and the Solar Impulse are the beginnings and proof that sustainable energy from solar power and thus significantly limiting the use of fossil fuels can and will change the way we move on in and above this earth while maintaining its health for future generations.

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