Solar Plane Completes Round The World Flight

History was made on Tuesday morning, when a solar-powered aeroplane completed its round the globe flight by landing in Abu Dhabi. The entire journey was powered exclusively by the sun’s energy. The main purpose of this 42,000 km long voyage was to make people aware that the world’s energy needs can be met through the use of renewable sources of energy, including harnessing the sun’s power by means of solar panels. In this way, the world’s rapidly depleting natural resources can be spared and future generations can live better quality lives in a much cleaner world.

To Boldly Go...

Piloted in turns by engineer André Borschber and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, this Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 plane is powered by a total of 17,248 solar cells which work in order to ensure that as much sunlight as possible is captured. The plane’s wingspan has a 236ft long stretch, slightly wider than that of a Boeing 747. The aircraft’s propellers run on four lithium polymer batteries during night hours. Bear in mind that these batteries are charged with the sun's energy harnessed by Solar Impulse 2’s panels during the day, so the plane is still technically using only the sun's power as its fuel source. Surprisingly, Solar Impulse 2 is an extremely lightweight aircraft, weighing around 2.3 tonnes, about the same weight as a mini-van. By contrast, the similarly wingspanned Boeing 747 weighs more than 150 tonnes.

During its 42,000 km long journey, the Solar Impulse 2 plane made stops in several different countries including China, Oman, Spain, Burma, India, Japan, Italy, Egypt and the United States before completing the final leg of its journey and touching down in the United Arab Emirates.

The plane’s 118 hour-long flight over the Pacific Ocean earned Solar Impulse 2 a place in the history books as the longest flight of any aeroplane flying solo over the Pacific. Another unique record which was made by this aircraft during it’s around the world journey was that it became the first ever solar-powered plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean – a feat which took about 70 hours.

Solar Impulse 2 Cockpit

As Solar Impulse 2 does not have a fully pressurised cockpit, its pilots were directly influenced by the temperatures of the areas the aircraft passed through. During the more gruelling sections of the journey, such as passing through the hottest parts of the Middle East, the pilots had to wear oxygen masks.

With no room on board to take a walk or do any proper exercise, the seats of this single-seater plane could be reclined so that the pilots could have a stretch in order to keep their blood flow at natural levels and avoid cramps. Removing the cushions over the seats gave the pilots access to a toilet (it wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done!). In terms of security measures, if the plane’s instruments sensed that it was drifting off course or losing altitude, signs that the pilot had fallen asleep, alarms would go off, while special armbands would vibrate in order to wake him up, negating the risk of catastrophe.

The Ushering in of a new Solar-Powered era

Pilots Borschberg and Picard have proven that solar power really is a versatile and forward-thinking means of energy production which has virtually limitless possibilities. Here at Activ8 Energies we would like to extend our utmost congratulations to these two intrepid adventurers. Their relentless endeavour is an inspiration to us all as we continue pushing solar power beyond what convention once thought was its limit.

Australia Saves $1 Billion Per Year With Solar

Solar panels on suburban Australian home roof
** Note: Visible grain at 100%, best at smaller sizes

As far as the energy industry is concerned, Australia has proven that the efficient implementation of simple ideas can yield unprecedented and unbelievable results. Australia's embracing of alternative energy in the form of its nationwide solar PV panel project has taken the country by storm, saving it more than $1 billion per year on power bills. The Aussies have installed well over 23.2 million solar PV panels this year. When you think about it, that’s nearly one solar panel for every person in the country (at the last census, Australia was calculated as being home to 24 million people). While there can be no denying that Australia has invested heavily in solar, the $1 billion annual saving represents a significant return on investment, an average saving of $653 per household per year.

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of solar panel installations on Australian rooftops. Since the 2007-2008 financial year the country has saved approximately $4.4bn thanks to its solar energy investment. For the past three years the country has been saving an annual average of $1bn thanks to renewable solar energy which certainly justifies the nation’s many installations. The installation of rooftop solar panels has become the norm in Australia’s building industry as people and businesses wisen up to the fact that they had been missing a trick in not putting them up much sooner. In fact, Australians now spend almost as much money on solar panels as they do on coffee.

Solar Power to the People

Households and small business investors have invested more than $8 Billion in the installation of rooftop solar panels. This translates to a grand total of more than 1.5 million households and business units. In the recently concluded financial year, Australians invested $1.23bn on the installation of solar panels. The initiative to revolutionise renewable energy in Australia continues to be a resounding success because the most crucial portion of the population, it’s everyday working citizens, is committed to ensuring that it is successful. It is the hard earned cash from home owners and small business investors that has made the project a success.

Australia has set the pace for the global revolution of the use of renewable energy. Currently, the country's generation has hit 6.5TWh (terawatt-hours) from the already installed rooftop solar PV panels. Such large amounts of clean and renewable power is not only beneficial to the country's economy and revenue but it also brings about great environmental benefits. For example, the country's ongoing generation of clean solar energy helps prevent as much as 6.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere and causing irreparable damage every single year. This is of huge benefit to the Australian environment and its people as Australia is known to have some of the thinnest patches in the Ozone layer, which creates a lot of problems. The country's progress in implementing the use of alternative energy has been such a huge success because it has been spearheaded by a great many visionaries who have taken global energy goals and targets into their perspective, a very forward-thinking attitude toward carrying out business.

Future Australian politicians and other stakeholders need to ensure that the country maintains the current renewable energy trend to ensure that it continues to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, as not doing so could negatively impact them at the voting booth. Approximately 5 million Australians have installed PV panels on their property, indicating a huge level of support for renewable energy initiatives among the populace. This represents a base of more than one in five voters, so politicians would be ignoring the popularity and usefulness of solar power at their own peril!

What can we learn from this in Ireland?

With Australia leading the way in terms of embracing clean and renewable forms of energy, we can learn a lot from them right here in Ireland. The impressive savings which Australian homeowners and businesses are making thanks to placing their trust in solar power is plain for all to see. With that in mind, it is high time the people of Ireland followed suit and took their share of the spoils!

Sure, there are plenty of Australian citizens that have taken to solar technologies because of their environmentally friendly approach to energy production, but that sort of adoption points directly towards the savings which we’ve outlined already. That reason alone has seen solar panels begin to appear on rooftops all over Ireland, but the number of people who have invested are still in the minority however. Depending on the size and energy needs of your building, massive savings can be made through the installation of solar panels on your home or business location. Whatever you do, don't delay. Now is the time to invest!