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Solar Impulse - Triumphant in CA!

04/24/16

  10:49:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 402 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Events

Solar Impulse - Triumphant in CA!

Longtime readers of this blog will know that we have been following the progress of the Solar Impulse team for many years.  Headed by adventurers/pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Solar Impulse project was about building an airplane that could fly around the world powered only by solar power!

The original craft, Solar Impulse 1, flew across the United States back in 2013 as a proof-of-concept design that could set the stage for the around-the-world attempt.  That audacious enterprise begin in March of 2015 as Solar Impulse 2 launched from Abu Dhabi on its way around the world.  Last summer, SI2 made it to Hawaii, but the effort needed for that extended non-stop flight from Japan damaged the batteries and required some redesign and retrofitting before the mission could proceed.  But this Thursday, April 21, was finally the day, and SI2 departed from Hawaii, headed for a landing at Moffet Airfield outside of San Francisco - a 62 hour flight!

For those who haven’t been following the mission, since there is only one pilot on-board, he can never really sleep during the flight.  Instead he takes power naps of 20 minutes at a time, assisted by self-hypnosis to quickly bring about a state of relaxation.  In addition, the pilot does yoga and the limited exercises afforded by his incredibly small and cramped cabin.

Solar Impulse 2 approaching the Golden Gate Bridge

But how does the plane itself - which is only powered by sunlight - manage to fly at night?  By an ingenious combination of electric and potential energy storage.  During the day, SI2 follows a flight profile of climbing from 5,000 to approximately 28,000 feet.  Sunlight charges the batteries through a collection of more than 17,000 monocrystalline silicon solar cells.  Then at night, SI2 begins a gentle descent, mostly gliding from its lofty height, to begin the process all over again.

So how did it turn out? As these great images make clear, pilot Bertrand Piccard, made it safe and sound.  The revised systems performed with out a hitch, and SI2 cruised past the Golden Gate Bridge on its way to a successful landing.

SI2 coming in to land at Moffet Airfield, California

Ah to have been in the San Francisco Bay area yesterday!  What a beautiful and inspiring sight!

The Solar Impulse team still has a great deal of work ahead of them including crossing the United States (they will be flying into New York City which should be something!) before crossing the Atlantic as they complete their mission of showing the world the true capability of clean energy.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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