Category Archives: Solar energy

Latest news about how far we are coming in using the best energy source in the world The Sun!

World’s first Solar Road opens in the Netherlands

The world’s first solar pathway “SolaRoad” has become a reality in the Netherlands. Since it is the Dutch, one should expect them to create a cycling road first up, and they did just that!! It is the first road that simply put, converts sunlight into electricity. Instead of the blacktop one sees toughened glass surface (a centimeter thick), under which lies the solar modules. This is the first section or the pilot road and is to be tested to learn how it can be made streamlined and more efficient.

Image Courtesy

The solar panel sections being laid down

is in Krommenie, (suburb of Amsterdam) along the provincial road N203, next to the Texaco garage on the railway trackside. It is 70 meters (approximately 230 feet) long right now and will be extended to 100 meters (330 feet) by 2016. SolaRoad has been developed by a consortium consisting of TNO, the Province of North-Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic&Infra. The Dutch Minister Henk Kamp of Economic Affairs officially opened SolaRoad to the public on The 12th of November 2014. The minister and his assistant rode a bike to inaugurate the road. The whole width of the pilot road is not paneled. One half is paneled, while on the other half different options for topping the road are being tried out.

Image Courtesy SolaRoad Website

Inaugural Ride By Minster Kamp

The idea of a Solar road which could convert sunlight into usable energy has been around in all seriousness since 2009. There was also a TedX talk on the same topic by Scott Brusaw at TEDxSacramento follow the link to the video.

The skeptics still feel that not being able to tilt the solar panels to follow the sun would reduce productivity by a close to 30%. Same thing can happen if a thick layer of mud, dirt, snow or ice covers the surface. These things will all be answered when the road is tested in real time. Last but not the least is the cost factor – building a road 100 meters long has cost close to $3.5million!!

Image Source SolaRoad Website

Solar Roadway Aerial view, left hand side is the solar part and the right hand side has the different top layers being tried

As per the SolaRoad website – SolaRoad is a pioneering innovation in the field of energy harvesting. It is a unique concept, which converts sunlight on the road surface into electricity: the road network works as an inexhaustible source of green power. SolaRoad is sustainable and can be used in practice in many different ways. SolaRoad is being developed as prefabricated slabs. It consists of concrete modules of 2.5 by 3.5 meters with a translucent top layer of tempered glass, which is about 1 cm thick. Underneath the glass are crystalline silicon solar cells. The top layer immediately shows an important difference from the traditional road surface. It has to be translucent for sunlight and repel dirt as much as possible. At the same time, the top layer must be skid resistant and strong enough in order to realize a safe road surface. This is one of the technical challenges of SolaRoad.

The premise behind the SolaRoad project is very optimistic and will make a huge difference if taken to a financially viable level. Right now the pilot road has been built at a cost of close to $3.5Million and the test period is three-years, various measurements will be taken and tests performed to enable SolaRoad to undergo further development. The goal is to utilize energy the road produces to run street lights homes etc…

So Yeah!! now there are solar paneled Bicycle lanes in the Netherlands, check them out next time you are in Amsterdam!! IMHO It is a step in the right direction, may be somewhere in the future one of Nostradamus’s predictions will give way to glass snakes enveloping the earth in the place of black snakes!!

Want to see a video about the SolaRoad? Check it out below >>

Source –

SolaRoad Website


Best Conditions for Generating Solar Energy

Solar panels use PV (photovoltaic) cells that convert sunlight into electricity. Assessing whether your property’s roof is in a good position to generate solar power is essential before committing to installing any solar energy technology.

Roof position

Your roof will need to face south or within 90 degrees of south and should be in a relatively sunny position. If your roof is overshadowed for part of the day then this will generate less power. As well as this your roof needs to be structurally sound and in a fit enough state to be able to support the weight of the panels.
The Energy Saving Trust advises that your roof should be at a pitched angle of between 30 and 50 degrees from the horizontal for best performance. If you have a flat roof, panels can be attached to a frame tilted at the optimum angle.

Housing Energy Advisor suggests that you use free online solar angle calculator to calculate the best angle for each month of the year and then work out an average. Alternatively, you could make the most of the summer sunshine by calculating the optimum angle for June and setting your panels in that position. This would be the best option if you want to produce as much energy as possible to sell back to the national grid. A third option would be to set your panels at the optimum angle for the winter months. In this scenario, it would be likely that you would still be able to produce enough energy for the summer months, but this will give the additional benefit of reducing the amount of energy you need to buy in the winter. Unfortunately this would also reduce the amount of surplus energy you’ll be able to sell.

Weather conditions

Solar energy systems will produce energy all year round, but will produce significantly less during the winter months. Solar panels can still generate energy even on a cloudy day and the Energy Saving Trust even estimates that a system can still generate up to a 1/3 of the energy on a cloudy day that would usually be produced on a sunny day.

Regular amounts of rainfall are essential to the efficient operation of solar panels, as this cleans off any dust and dirt that could settle on them and could prevent the sun’s rays from being efficiently harnessed. This also helps to keep the panels cool, which benefits the panels as they operate with greater efficiency at lower temperatures.

Guest Article by Amy Catlow.

Teenie Micro Solar Cell From Semprius

Pin Sized Solar Cell from Semprius

Picture courtesy Inhabitat website


Semprius just unveiled an teenie solar cell that is half the size of a pinhead, which when combined with powerful inexpensive lenses can concentrate sunlight more than 11,000 times and convert it to electricity!

Semprius has been a leader in Concentrated solar research and development. In 2008 they had come out with a method to slice monocrystalline solar wafers thin enough to be flexible and partially transparent but still maintain their high solar efficiency. The slender silicon slices are then imprinted onto a substrate using Semprius’s patented microtransfer printing process.

Semprius’ patented micro-transfer printing technology brings for the first time, high performance semiconductors to virtually any surface, including glass, plastic or metal substrates or even other semiconductor wafers. By liberating the semiconductor devices from their traditional substrates, Semprius technology enables the construction of a wide variety of new products with large-area, thin, and lightweight form factors, high reliability and low cost. The resulting circuit devices have levels of performance comparable to the original semiconductor.


Smaller and more efficient! Wonderful news for Solar and alternative energy market; if only it were affordable sooner.

Read the entire article here

Boeing’s Solar Eagle

The US defense department wants a drone which would stay aloft for five years and Boeing has stepped up to the plate. Boeing is building a prototype of a solar-electric drone called the Solar Eagle which they plan to test in 2013. The plane could be a pseudo-satellite for communication, reconnaissance and earth-monitoring.

Artists representation of the Solar Eagle Courtesy

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is paying The Boeing Co., $89 million to build a huge, solar-powered, robotic aircraft that can carry 1,000 pounds of sensors and other payloads for five years at a stretch.

The plane Solar Eagle, would need to be virtually maintenance-free and highly energy efficient. Well over half the plane, which spans 400 feet from wing to wing, will be covered with solar arrays to harvest energy from the sun. The power needs to be stored onboard so the plane can fly by night, as well as power payloads.

The Defense department wants the plane to be as dependent as a satellite with the added benefit of being able to be brought back and put back up as and when needed. It would be flying above 65,000 feet- twice the altitude of a commercial flight!

In July of 2010 The Zephyr – broke the official world record time for the longest duration unmanned flight. Zephyr was launched at 06:41 (MST) on 09 July 2010 and stayed aloft for 14 nights (336 hrs / 22 minutes) above the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, before being brought safely back to earth on the morning of 23 July having achieving all the objectives of the trial. The Zephyr was built by Qinetiq, Boeing’s partner in the Solar Eagle project.

The Solar Eagle is being designed at the Phantom Works, Boeings main Research and Development arm.

You can watch the Zephyr – take off, flight and landing in the video below.

Qinetiq website

Article About Zephyr’s first long flight

Stanford’s Thinner Than The Wavelength of Sound Solar Cells

One thing we know about solar cells is that thinner it is less expensive it gets; thin film solar is cheaper than the standard silicon cells. Stanford University’s team of Researchers has come up with Solar cells thinner than the wavelengths of light which are also more efficient! They say Ultra-thin solar cells can absorb sunlight more efficiently than the thicker, more expensive-to-make silicon cells used today, because light behaves differently at scales around a nanometer (a billionth of a meter).

The team consists of Shanhui Fan, associate professor of Electrical engineering and postdoctoral researcher Zongfu Yu who is the lead on the PNAS paper. Aaswath Raman, a graduate student in applied physics, also worked on the research and is a coauthor of the paper.

Everyone worked with the assumption that light travels in a straight line i.e. if a ray of light hits a mirror it bounces back as another ray. When Yu began investigating the behavior of light inside a material of deep subwavelength-scale – substantially smaller than the wavelength of the light – that it became evident to him that light could be confined for a longer time, increasing energy absorption beyond the conventional limit at the macroscale. On further research Yu figured out that he could increase absorption rate by 12% by sandwiching the organic thin film between two layers of material – called “cladding” layers – that acted as confining layers once the light passed through the upper one into the thin film. Atop the upper cladding layer, he placed a patterned rough-surfaced layer designed to send the incoming light off in different directions as it entered the thin film.

The project was supported by funding from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which supports the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics at Stanford, and by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Source – The Stanford News

The Strano Group at MIT & The Latest In Solar Technology

I try to keep abreast of the developments in the alternative energy field and am always surprised with how fast new developments are happening. Yesterday I read about 2 interesting developments in the field of Solar energy. Both where developed by The Strano Group a team of scientists and researchers led by MIT’s Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Michael Strano.

The two developments were nanotube solar funnels and self healing solar panels, both are ground breaking developments in the field of nanotechnology and Solar energy. The team has managed to mimic a leaves ability to r

The articles that caught my eye were the following:

1. Carbon Nanotube Solar Funnels which could make Solar panels smaller and more efficient

Imagine Solar panels that take lesser space and are more efficient? That is exactly what the researchers at MIT have created! A team of researchers under the leadership of Associate Professor Michael Strano have developed technology which concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular PV cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.

Photovoltaic cells generate electricity by converting photons or light energy into an electric current. The nanotube antenna created by the MIT research team led by Associate Professor Michael Strano, boosts the number of photons that can be captured and transforms the light into energy that can be funneled into a solar cell. “Instead of having your whole roof be a photovoltaic cell, you could have little spots that were tiny photovoltaic cells, with antennas that would drive photons into them,” says Strano.

The antenna consists of a fibrous rope about 10 micrometers (millionths of a meter) long and four micrometers thick, containing about 30 million carbon nanotubes. Strano’s team built, for the first time, a fiber made of two layers of nanotubes with different electrical properties – specifically, different bandgaps*.

Strano and his students describe their new carbon nanotube antenna, or “solar funnel,” in the Sept. 12 online edition of the journal Nature Materials. Lead authors of the paper are postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han and graduate student Geraldine Paulus. Solar cells that incorporate carbon nanotubes could become a good lower-cost alternative to traditional silicon solar cells.

While the cost of carbon nanotubes was once prohibitive, it has been coming down in recent years as chemical companies build up their manufacturing capacity. “At some point in the near future, carbon nanotubes will likely be sold for pennies per pound, as polymers are sold,” says Strano. “With this cost, the addition to a solar cell might be negligible compared to the fabrication and raw material cost of the cell itself, just as coatings and polymer components are small parts of the cost of a photovoltaic cell.”

You can read the entire article here and and article about nanotubes and their functioning here on the MIT News website.

*Bandgaps – is an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist.

2. Self Assembling Self healing Solar Cells!

Plants have been successful at utilizing solar energy efficiently for eons and scientists have been trying to mimic the process for decades. Now a group of MIT Scientists have succeeded in mimicking a key aspect of that puzzle. The Sun rays are destructive to most materials and degrade most of the systems man has created till date. Plants on the other hand have a system where they constantly breakdown their light capturing molecules and reassemble them from scratch there by making the basic structure to capture sunlight new daily!

The Strano Group has managed to imitate that process by creating a novel set of self-assembling molecules that can turn sunlight into electricity; the molecules can be repeatedly broken down and then reassembled quickly, just by adding or removing an additional solution. Their paper on the work was published on Sept. 5 in Nature Chemistry.

Strano says the idea first occurred to him when he was reading about plant biology. “I was really impressed by how plant cells have this extremely efficient repair mechanism,” he says. In full summer sunlight, “a leaf on a tree is recycling its proteins about every 45 minutes, even though you might think of it as a static photocell.”

In the case of the molecules used for photosynthesis in plants, the reactive form of oxygen produced by sunlight causes the proteins to fail in a very precise way. As Strano describes it, the oxygen “unsnaps a tether that keeps the protein together,” but the same proteins are quickly reassembled to restart the process.

The system Strano’s team produced is made up of seven different compounds, including the carbon nanotubes, the phospholipids, and the proteins that make up the reaction centers, which under the right conditions spontaneously assemble themselves into a light-harvesting structure that produces an electric current.

“We’re basically imitating tricks that nature has discovered over millions of years” — in particular, “reversibility, the ability to break apart and reassemble,” Strano says. The team, which included postdoctoral researcher Moon-Ho Ham and graduate student Ardemis Boghossian, came up with the system based on a theoretical analysis, but then decided to build a prototype cell to test it out. They ran the cell through repeated cycles of assembly and disassembly over a 14-hour period, with no loss of efficiency.

Read the Full Article HERE

BBC article here

Ivanpah Solar Project In California

There are many new Alternative energy projects coming up all over the US, and the US still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to alternative energy when compared to the developing economies China and India. China is the leader in investment in alternative energy programs world over.

Under the EERE’s solar Energy technologies program many new alternative energy programs are developing. On August 12th the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a power purchase agreement for the utility-scale Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. CPUC granted a 20-year contract between Southern California Edison Company and Ivanpah operator BrightSource Energy, Inc. for 117 megawatts (MW) of planned production from the three-tower, concentrating solar power (CSP) complex in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California. The contract calls for electricity to begin flowing on September 30, 2013. The site’s three plants will feature the company’s proprietary solar power tower technology, which employs thousands of flat mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on a central tower-mounted receiver. Water pumped to the receiver is boiled into steam, which drives a turbine to produce electricity. Solar power towers allow the capture of a greater percentage of solar energy than do other solar thermal technologies. Ultimately, the project is designed to generate approximately 400 MW of electricity, an output that would nearly double the existing generation capacity of CSP facilities in the United States.

The project will be sited on about 4,000 acres of public land proposed public land in San Bernardino County.

Project Overview
  • An approximately 400 megawatt solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.
  • The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s Luz Power Tower (LPT) technology.
  • The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.
  • Located approximately 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada, in the desert on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
  • When constructed, Ivanpah will be the first large-scale solar thermal project built in California in nearly two decades and the largest in the world.
  • The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the US today.
Environmental Benefits
  • Avoids 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year; the equivalent of removing 70,000 cars off the road annually.
  • Employs a closed-loop dry-cooling technology, which reduces water use by 90 percent. Will use 100 acre feet per year, the equivalent of 300 homes’ annual water usage; and nearly 25 times less water than competing technologies.
  • Cuts major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Technology places individual mirrors onto metal poles that are driven into the ground, reducing the need for extensive land grading and using far fewer concrete pads than other technologies.
Economic Benefits
  • Construction Jobs                                 : 1,000 jobs at peak of construction; average 650 jobs annually over 3 year period
  • Operations and Maintenance Jobs : 86
  • State and Local Tax Benefits             : $400 million*
  • Total construction wages                   : $250 million
  • Total Employee Earnings                   : $650 million
    *Based on 30 year plant life cycle

Read the entire article here

Check out Brightsource Energy website

Solar Energy Now a Viable Large Scale Energy Source?

When I read “Solar Power is Cheaper than Nuclear Power” I seriously thought someone was trying to pull a quick one by talking about 20 years into the future as if it was happening in the present. Then I read the article on The Green Energy Collective Website in detail and was thrilled by the realization that 2 researchers at Duke University have come to the conclusion that Solar Energy may have reached grid parity!

It’s no secret that the cost of photovoltaic cells (PV) have been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. Nuclear Power plants are being pushed as the only viable alternative economically right now. But now the Duke researchers are saying that Solar power has attained price parity in regards to Nuclear power.

The Study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham say “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.” They have their study based in North Carolina.

According to Osha Davidson of Energy Collective, if the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP).

Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour – the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Currently US energy supply depends 70% on Fossil Fuels (including Coal) and 20% on Nuclear Energy. The researchers say that mass produced Solar energy is being offered to customers at 14cents per kilo Watt Hour, which would make Solar energy one of the least expensive energy sources in America.

As I looked it up for more details I came across articles in NYTimes and a discussion on Slashdot both make some very interesting reading.

If what the researchers say hold true, we should have greener energy powering our day to day activities within a decades time. Sounds good will have to wait and see how it pans out. Live Green!

Some interesting facts:

  • From 1943 to 1999 the U.S. government paid nearly $151 billion, in 1999 dollars, in subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power, Marshall Goldberg of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a research organization in Washington, wrote in a July 2000 report. Of this total, 96.3 percent went to nuclear power, the report said.
  • According to credit rating agency Moody’s Nuclear installations invariably lower the credit rating of the company. “Of the 19 applications at the N.R.C.(US Nuclear Regulatory Commission) , 90 percent have had some type of delay or cancellation, run into a design problem, suffered cost increases and/or had the utility bond rating downgraded by Wall Street.”
  • Nuclear subsidies in the Senate proposal include five-year accelerated depreciation; tax credits for investments and production and eligibility for the advanced energy tax credit; an increase in government insurance against regulatory delays; access to private activity bonds; and a $36 billion increase in loan guarantees, bringing the total to $56 billion. (The Nuclear Energy Institutes Goal was a $100 Billion!)

Source of the article here

Another article here

Duke University Website

The Study Published by the researchers in full can be read here

The American Solar Challenge 2010 Solar Chariot Races

The American Solar Challenge is a road race for Solar powered cars which is held every alternate year in the US. The aim of the competition is to design, build, and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country time/distance rally event. Teams compete in a 1100 mile drive from Broken Arrow, OK to Naperville, IL. The route has been chosen to combine pieces of old routes used in previous events, giving a bit of an historical tribute for the 20 years of organized events in North America.

This year the winner out of 17 teams that qualified for the final road race were from the University of Michigan. The Road race started on the 16th of June 2010 at Broken Arrow Oklahoma and ended on the 26th of June in Naperville Illinois.  The following is the route :

  • Sat, June 19: Travel day / Support Vehicle Inspections in Broken Arrow, OK
  • Sun, June 20: Start in Broken Arrow, OK; must reach Neosho, MO checkpoint
  • Mon, June 21: Finish in Topeka, KS
  • Tue, June 22: Start in Topeka, KS; must reach Jefferson City, MO checkpoint
  • Wed, June 23: Finish in Rolla, MO
  • Thu, June 24: Start in Rolla, MO; must reach Alton, IL checkpoint
  • Fri, June 25: Finish in Normal, IL
  • Sat, June 26: Start in Normal, IL; finish in Naperville, IL

The Race finalists are chosen from a preliminary round which takes place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) Track race in Cresson Texas. The top teams in FSGP, which complete at least 100 laps in a single day, or any two consecutive day total of 150 laps, will automatically qualify for ASC.  Only Official Laps will count towards qualifying mileage.  The track is 1.7 miles.

The 17 finalists can be found HERE Most of the participants were from the US while there were also teams from Canada, Germany and Taiwan.

The top 3 finishers were :

  1. University of Michigan
  2. University of Minnesota
  3. Hochschule Bochum from Germany

For The University of Michigan Solar team this is their sixth impressive win in the ASC race. Their solar car which is called Infinium has topped 105 miles per hour speed during test runs. The Michigan team finished the 1200 mile race in 28 hours, 14 minutes, and 44 seconds. The above 3 are also links to the respective cars which are simply amazing and following are pictures the teams vehicles in the winning order.

It is impressive to see renewable technology being developed by the younger generation every day aimed towards a greener tomorrow. Gives all of us hope that a day where our dependence of fossil fuel ends may indeed be possible. Live Green!

Read More about it on the ASC 2010 Website

Solar Impulse: The “Utopian” Flight of Fancy Realized!

According to the American Poet and Novelist James Dickey “Flight is the only truly new sensation than men have achieved in modern history” and I tend to agree.

Flight in itself helped humankind shorten the distances across the oceans and gave wings to mans imagination, it also helped man reach the moon and beyond. Like Bill Gates said The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing.  The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together”. It has been 100 plus years since the first flight by the Wright brothers and the planes have gone from biplane gliders to supersonic jets and beyond. Until now the faster plane did not mean it was focusing on fuel efficiency, mostly longer flights meant larger engines and higher fuel capacity. In today’s move towards a greener energy solution and a lower carbon footprint it looked as though the flights were one of the things which we would be still running on oil however pricey it got.

I called it a flight of fancy not to trivialize it, but to say how unbelievably awestruck I am! The 20th century has had its share of amazing discoveries from the first flight to the moon landing, conquering the Everest and the Poles, circum navigating the earth faster than the previously estimated etc… It was also the century when humankind adversely effected the environment most and created the need for alternative energy sources a priority for the survival and sustenance of our planet.

On the 7th of June 2010 something spectacular happened, which helped take the journey in the skies to the next level- A flight powered purely by the Sun- Solar Impulse!!

The Brains behind the Solar Impulse Piccard and Borschberg Pictures from Solar Impulse

The team led by two pilots- innovators & visionaries: Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist and aeronaut, who made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, is the initiator and chairman AND André Borschberg, an engineer and graduate in management science, a fighter pilot and a professional airplane and helicopter pilot, as the CEO started their journey towards creating The Solar Impulse in 2003 and announced it in the May of 2007. The former’s avant-garde vision and the latter’s entrepreneurial and managerial experience are an ideal combination. The idea at the heart of the Solar Impulse project is to get closer to perpetual flight in a machine powered only by solar energy. This challenge necessitated the use of technology unique to this type of aircraft, such as that linked with the gathering of energy via photovoltaic cells and storing it in batteries for use in powering the engines at night.

On the morning of 07/07/2010 at 6.51 AM in Switzerland André Borscherg CEO and co-founder of the Solar impulse project took to the skies in the Solar Impulse HB-SIA from the Payerne Airbase. The flight was powered by 12,000 solar panels built into its enormous 63.4meter wing, which charged its 400kg of batteries during the long ascent. The flight successfully completed its aim of 24 hours in the flight using nothing but solar power and landed back in the Payerne Airbase after 26 hours and 9 minutes having successfully completed its mission. The organizers said the flight was the longest and highest by a piloted solar-powered craft, reaching an altitude of just over 28,000 feet above sea level at an average speed of 23 knots, or about 26 miles per hour.

After the flight landed successfully André Borschberg said from the cockpit of the Solar Impulse “During the whole of the flight, I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise! Sitting in a plane producing more energy than it consumes is a fantastic feeling”.

Bertrand Piccard added “This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels!”.

The Associated Press quoted Dr. Piccard as saying “When you took off, it was another era. You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

The project’s designers had set out to prove that — theoretically at least — the plane, with its airliner-size, 208-foot wingspan, could stay aloft indefinitely, recharging batteries during the day and using the stored power overnight. “We are on the verge of the perpetual flight,” Dr. Piccard said.

“The airplane is the means of transport using the most energy and it alone represents more than 3 % of the total gas emissions contributing to the greenhouse effect on the planet! As an aerial photographer I know something about this. If all airplanes were to become solar, this would be tremendous. And Piccard is a dreamer: I know of nothing more extraordinary than helping people realise their dreams.”-Yann-Arthus Bertrand

There might or might not come a time when a 300 passenger plane flies on solar power alone. In the mean while even as a single person flight it gives us hope that a greener option is possible. And like the Solar impulse website says “if we do not invest in the scientific means to develop new energy sources, we shall find ourselves in a major crisis, which will prevent us from handing over the planet to the next generation.”

You can read more about the Solar Impulse on its website HERE

Pictures source Solar

Find the Article on Solar Impulse flight in the NY times here