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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.