Conquering the Desert on Solar Power

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

André Borschberg dodged thunderstorms, overflew the Atlas Mountains, and made his way from Quarzazate to Rabat, Morocco, reversing the course he took last week to the interior of this desert country. While there, he had a week of celebrations and ceremonial gatherings in honor of what will be the world’s largest solar-thermal power plant.  The presence of Solar Impulse, the gigantic, sun-borne aircraft undoubtedly served as a reminder of what such technology can accomplish. Taking off at 7:33 a. m. local time from Quarzazate, Borschberg held course toward Marrakesh on the coast.  Afternoon brought thunderstorms, heavy winds, and thermals.  To avoid a landing in such conditions, the pilot flew a holding pattern between Marrakesh and Rabat and waited for sunset.  …

Solar Impulse Lands in Desert at Night

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

But that’s a good thing, because it was on a nice runway with landing lights to help guide it down.  On June 22, at 25 minutes after midnight, local time, André Borschberg touched down at Quarzazate, the site of Morocco’s huge new solar generating plant.  Its second attempt at reaching this destination, Solar Impulse was flown through mid-day turbulence and shifting winds, but did not turn back as it had on the first attempt the week before. The project’s press release provides an outline of the flight.  “The Solar Impulse airplane took-off this morning at 07:05 (UTC+1) from Rabat-Salé. After flying in the direction of Casablanca, the HB-SIA made its way inland towards Marrakesh, avoiding the Atlas Mountains, and flying …

Solar Impulse Turns Back

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

June 13 was not a good flying day for Solar Impulse.  Hoping to finish this epic journey between continents, Andre Borschberg ran into stiff winds and severe turbulence.  Although in the air for 16 hours and 6 minutes while covering 780 kilometers (484 miles), the flight did not make it to its destination of the solar plant at Quarzazate, but returned to Rabat after battling winds and extreme turbulence.  Since the airplane cruises at around 30-35 miles per hour, its average ground speed for the flight of 55 kilometers per hour (34.1 mph) seemed normal enough, but didn’t show the wild swings in groundspeed experienced by Borschberg, a strong contrast to the uneventful leg between Madrid and Morocco. At one …

On From Rabat – Solar Impulse Explores Morocco

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Solar Impulse took off from Rabat-Sale’ Airport this morning 08:07 a. m. local time, heading over Casablanca and Marrakesh on its way south to Quarzazate, where it is expected to land at 00:30 a. m. local time.   Considering early ground speeds under 15 kilometers per hour (about 9 miles per hour), headwinds are a major constraint.  Turbulence may also cause difficulties, the area having an average daily temperature in the high 90s and low 100s Fahrenheit. Quarzazate is a high desert city whose name in Arabic means “noiselessly,” probably reflecting the vast stillness of the surround desert.  Home to Atlas film studios, one of the largest in world, and setting, along with the desert and Atlas Mountains, for films such …

Solar Impulse Crosses Mediterranean, Joins Continents

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Waking up in the middle of the David Letterman show this morning, your editor stumbled into the computer room to check on the Solar Impulse trip to Morocco.  From the live Google Earth map shown on their web site, and the inset live video of Bertrand Piccard, all was well, and the giant solar-powered craft was sailing over surprisingly irregular terrain.  It just wasn’t the expected flat, featureless desert seen in countless films. Solar Impulse was probably still flying over Spain at that time, having taken off at 3:22 a. m. local time (5:22 coordinated universal time or Greenwich time) from Madrid’s Barajas Airport.    At 7:30 a. m. local time (Pacific Daylight Time – 4:30 UTC), Bertrand Piccard was crossing the narrow …

Dropping Into Madrid

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Solar Impulse HB-SIA, flown by project CEO Andre Borschberg, crossed the border into Spain after flying over mountainous terrain for over 17 hours on the first leg of its Payerne, Madrid, Rabat trip.  During the flight, the prototype crossed from Switzerland into France at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) The project’s blog explains, “The Solar Impulse airplane took-off this morning at 08h24AM (UTC+2) from Payerne aerodrome in Switzerland following the previously scheduled flight plan over the Pyrenees. The aircraft flew over the Massif Central towards the city of Toulouse (France), flying over the Pyrenees mountain range at an altitude of 7’833 meters (25,699 feet) and finally arriving in Spain, landing on Runway 33L.”  The airplane managed the 1,191 …

The High Road to Morocco

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The Solar Impulse project announced the takeoff of HB-SIA from its Swiss home field at Payerne  with André Borschberg at the controls this morning.  The 08:24AM (UTC +2) departure will lead to a full day’s flight, with Solar Impulse landing at Madrid Barajas Airport around 01:00AM (UTC+2) for a minimum 3-day technical stopover. Weather permitting, the first possible departure for Rabat, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, will be Monday 28 May.  This will be his first major outing in the airplane, and a significant one, since he will cross the Mediterranean to Morocco, the first intercontinental flight by a solar-powered aircraft. The video from Mountain Radio included interviews with both Borschberg and Piccard, whose tastes in music are explored. …

Concentrating Sunlight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The promise of solar energy is that, for all practical purposes, solar energy is unlimited and eternal (if the sun goes away, we go away).  Despite this, only four percent of the world’s energy needs are supplied by solar resources today.  Part of this is the relatively high cost of solar cells, their limited efficiency, and sometimes limited lifespans, which makes expensive replacements a regular necessity. The total amount of solar energy striking the earth is a strikingly high figure, something in the way of terajoules, according to one site.  About 1,000 Watts of energy hit every square meter of the earth’s surface, varying by the angle at which the surface is tilted relative to the parallel rays from the …

PC-Aero Wins Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Vision Award

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

A Green Flight Challenge entrant, PC-Aero’s Elektra One, has won the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Vision Award at AirVenture 2011 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, becoming the latest winner of this important award for innovation in the pursuit of “green” aviation. Past winners of the Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft include: Pipistrel: 2011 Aero-Friedrichshafen Best  Electric Aircraft LZ Design: 2011 Aero-Friedrichshafen Best  Electric Propulsion System Solar Impulse: 2011 Aero-Friedrichshafen  Outstanding Achievement Award Yuneec International: 2010 AirVenture Best  Electric Aircraft Sonex: 2010 AirVenture Best Electric Aircraft  Subsystem Lange Aviation: 2010 AirVenture Individual  Achievement Award According to Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh and founder of LEAP, the organization’s, “Programs recognize, inspire and incentivize the innovation that drives our culture, economy and future.  The LEAP …

Solar Impulse Inspires in Brussels, Heads to Paris

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

On June 14, 2011, Andre’ Borschberg guided the giant Solar Impulse from Brussels, Belgium, where the craft had spent the last week as the centerpiece of discussions on green energy and the future of transportation in the European Community, to Le Bourget Field just outside Paris.  Nearing its destination, its daylong flight sometimes resembled the mathematical problem called, “the drunkard’s walk,” as Borschberg was vectored around the aerial neighborhoods surrounding Paris to make certain the lightly loaded craft did not run afoul of  jetliners’ wakes and could find a slot where the runway did not present residual turbulence.  During the preceding week, VIPs from the European Community gathered aound the airplane in Brussels to discuss the importance of this airplane and …