Kapolei, Hawaii received the first landing of a solar power plane last week! The sun’s rays powered a plane on a 5 day Pacific Ocean journey from Japan and landing in Hawaii with pilot Andre Borschberg.
This small airport was the landing spot for a single-seat aircraft after a 118 hours, a record breaking nonstop solo flight. Steve Fossett is credited with the previous record of flying around the world in 2006 in a specially-designed jet after 76 hours in the air.
The difference between Fossett and Borschberg flight is that Borschberg flew without fuel in his Solar Impulse 2. His plane had 17,000 solar cells on the wings powering the propellers instead of fuel. At night, the plane had stored energy to complete the trans-Pacific leg which had no emergency landing spot, making it a risky global travel.
The aircraft is engine-less and had a quiet landing that witnessed by media to make an audience of approximately 200 people just before 6am.
Borschberg would be quoted later that morning as saying, “Nobody now can say that renewable energies cannot do the impossible.” He would call the flight an extraordinary experience that made a historical first for aviation as well as for renewable energy.
For Borschberg and his co-pilot, Swiss native Bertrand Piccard, the biggest challenge was deciding when to leave Japan. Borschberg went on to say, “You don’t know if it’s feasible. You don’t know if it’s possible. You don’t know if you are going to lose the airplane.”
Daily for 45 minutes Borschberg did yoga to counter the effects of being immobile. After sitting in the plane for approximately an hour upon landing, he was approached by customs who asked to his passport. Dignitaries were on hand to shake his hand as the crowd waived Swiss flags and hula performers sang a Hawaiian welcome song.
Twenty-eight mph is the ideal flight speed for the 5,000 pound plane, but it is able to do double that during the day as the rays of the sun are at their strongest then. Made of carbon-fiber, the aircraft weighs about the same as a mid-size truck or minivan.
The two pilots, Borschberg and Piccard, took turns around the world flying the plane since March. Next for the solar powered plane is Phoenix with Piccard at the helm and then the duo plan to head to New York next.
Over $100 million was invested in this project, which started in 2002. The highlighted importance of this project is renewable energy as well as an innovation spirit. At this time, solar-powered commercial air travel is not practical.
The solar power planes stop in Hawaii was perfect timing with the state’s recent embarking of an ambitious clean energy project. Just last month, Gov. David Ige signed into legislation that directed Hawaii’s utilities to be generating 100 percent of the electricity by 2045 from renewable energy resources. This is quite an increase from now which they are only getting 21 percent of the power used currently from renewable sources.