News / Africa

Solar-Powered Plane's Trip Boosts Solar Energy Cause

The Solar Impulse plane's project president and pilot, Bertrand Piccard (L) celebrates with co-founder and CEO Andre Borschberg (R) and Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) CEO Mustapha Bakkoury after the plane landed following a 19-hour flight from M
The Solar Impulse plane's project president and pilot, Bertrand Piccard (L) celebrates with co-founder and CEO Andre Borschberg (R) and Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) CEO Mustapha Bakkoury after the plane landed following a 19-hour flight from M
Morocco on Wednesday was celebrating the world's first intercontinental flight by a manned aircraft operating without liquid fuel after the plane landed in Rabat on a journey from Spain.

The Solar Impulse plane completed the 830 kilometer trip late Tuesday, landing at Rabat's international airport after taking off from Madrid 19 hours earlier.

The plane's lone pilot, Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, smiled as he emerged from the small cockpit to be greeted by members of his team and Moroccan authorities. He said the plane's crossing of the Gibraltar strait separating Europe and Africa was a "magical moment" that represents one of the "highlights" of his career.

Solar Impulse has a 63-meter wingspan covered by 12,000 solar cells connected to a set of electrical motors that power the aircraft. Despite its size, the single-pilot plane weighs only about as much as an average family car.

  • Solar Impulse in flight over Switzerland, 2010. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Bertrand Piccard & his co-pilot André Borschberg, July 2011. (Photo: Laurent Kaeser)
  • Wing assembly on Solar Impulse, 2010. (Photo: Stéphane Gros)
  • Solar Impulse in flight over Switzerland, 2011. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Pilot preparation before the Crossing Frontiers flight to Morocco, May 24, 2012. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Crossing Frontiers -- Flying over Rabat-Salé, Morocco, June 5, 2012. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Crossing Frontiers – Taking off from Madrid, June 5, 2012. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Bertrand Piccard flying with Solar Impulse in 2011. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Adjusting the cockpit, 2011. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Bertrand, Augustus and Jacques Piccard: Three generations with a passion for exploration, adventure and scientific development.
  • Bertrand Piccard, November 2007.
  • On the ground at Brussels airport, 2011. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)
  • Inside the cockpit of Solar Impulse. (Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch)

Morocco's role

Organizers chose Morocco as the destination for the unprecedented flight to highlight the North African nation's plan to build the world's largest solar power plant. The head of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, Mustafa Bakkoury, welcomed Piccard at the airport and said Morocco supports the pilot's message about the importance of renewable energy.

"Solar energy is no longer restricted to the scientific world but is becoming an (integral) part of daily life," Bakkoury said.

He said Morocco plans to start building the solar power plant in the south-central city of Ouarzazate in 2014. The plant is part of a Moroccan effort to reduce the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and produce 2,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020.

Speaking to VOA as he flew over Spain, Piccard urged other nations to follow Morocco's example.

"Morocco is investing massively to make the biggest solar power plant in the world to make them much more independent from fossil energy," he said. "This is very important for the commercial balance of a country like Morocco."

"There are so many countries that could reduce their consumption of fossil energy and create their own energy sources with the sun, with the wind, with biomass. And this is a way to increase the purchasing power and the wealth of the country," he added.

Changing perceptions

Piccard also said his goal is to try to change public perceptions about renewable energy sources.

"With these new technologies and solar energy, we can fly with no fuel, and the same technologies would basically be used also for cars, for houses, for air conditioning," he said. "And this is really what we want to promote - not just for airplanes, but also on the ground for daily life for everybody," he said.

Solar Impulse's flight also was a trial run for a much longer round-the-world flight scheduled in 2014. Piccard said his team is preparing for that attempt by building a second, larger plane with watertight wings that can fly in rainy conditions for five to six days in a row without landing.

The team's current aircraft made history in 2010 as the first manned plane to fly for 24 hours using only the sun's energy.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs