The HB-SIA, a plane powered entirely by sunlight and photovoltaic panels, completed a journey across the United States from San Francisco to New York after making stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. It is the first time a plane has been flown cross-country entirely on solar power.
The plane was designed and built by Solar Impulse, a Swiss organization founded by two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who wanted to promote clean energy while also experimenting with new technology. Their mission began in May and was completed on July 6 despite a problem on the last leg of the journey having to do with the cloth wings of the aircraft.
“This last leg was especially difficult due to the damage of the fabric on the left wing,” André Borschberg said in a press release, shortly after landing. “But this type of problem is inherent to every experimental endeavor. In the end, this didn’t prevent us from succeeding in our Across America mission and provided an invaluable learning experience in preparation for the round-the-world tour in 2015.”
The HB-SIA is fueled by 11,000 solar cells, spread out over the vehicle’s wingspan, which is equal in length to that of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. It has a top speed of 45 miles per hour, so such long flights do take quite a bit of time. Piccard and Borschberg took over 105 flying hours to complete the trip.
Solar-powered flight may be in the early stages of development, but Northern California solar energy is not. A residential PV system will help you lower your electricity bills while improving air quality and decreasing your reliance on fossil fuels. Contact West Coast Solar today to find out more about how your home can benefit from solar power.