What’s the Point of a Solar Plane?

In case you are unaware, there is a plane attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Whoop-dee-do, you might say. Unless it’s nonstop, how is that any sort of feat? No, it’s not non-stop – however it is a feat due to the fact that the plane is 100% solar powered.

Brent Smith
The plane is dubbed the Solar Impulse 2, being the Solar Impulse 1 didn’t cut the mustard. It has a colorful and inspirational website, which tells the story. The site states: “A new Utopia? A beautiful scene from science fiction? No, a cutting-edge technological challenge! A sufficiently eccentric project to appeal to one’s emotions and get one’s adrenalin pumping: to harness a clean and renewable form of energy, and use it to fly night and day without limit.”

That’s fascinating – tell us more. “The adventure began with Bertrand Piccard’s vision that clean technologies and energy efficiency can reduce our emissions and improve our quality of life.” His vision led to the development of the massive Solar Impulse 2, multi-motor plane.

Although the project has two pilots, the plane is but a single-seater. The pilots must switch off at designated landing sights around the globe. Of course it never mentions how the other pilot gets to these designated landing sights, but I’m going to guess by dirty, polluting, commercial aircraft.

It has four motors. Since they are neither internal combustion nor jet, they can’t be called engines. It has a wing span of over 236 ft, almost 40 ft wider than a 747. The wings contain 17,248 solar cells, allowing it to fly both day and night and weighs only about as much a Ford Fiesta. The plane really is a marvel of engineering and I applaud them for their ingenuity and effort. Oh, and courage, for a single pilot (there is no room for anyone else) to fly for days across the open Pacific Ocean. That takes a certain amount of courage.

It also takes a certain amount of courage to say: “One could easily imagine oneself in a Jules Verne novel: a team wanting to promote renewable energies sets off round the world in a solar airplane, aiming to fly without fuel or pollution…”

So what’s really my point? Any regular reader knows full well that I only write mockingly of both wind and solar and the people who promote such folly. And that is exactly what this round-the-world (assuming they make it) trip is – folly.

Mr. Piccard and his 60 man (and woman and probably other unspecified genders) team can dream all they like of no fuel and no pollution until the methane-emitting cows come home, but the practical use of something like this is exactly ZERO.

So far the project has cost approximately $170 million. $170 million to develop a mammoth aircraft which holds one person and that one person must be able to fly the thing and is relegated to a tiny cabin which is not pressurized, or heated or air conditioned. There’s some luxury accommodations for you. And it’s taken them 12 years just to get this far.

Okay, so the plane which is larger than a 747 (it can accommodate from 400 to over 600 passengers), is a bit cramped for one person. What about flight time? How practical is that, you may ask? Well, as it turns out, it took the pilot 62 hours to fly from Hawaii to San Francisco. That’s an average speed of around 37 MPH. Heck – Usain Bolt can run 28 MPH. So that’s not so good. And by the way – the around the world flight began in the UAE in March of 2015 and still has 8,200 miles to go. Great if one has about a year and half to kill.

This solar aircraft, like other enormously costly wind and solar projects is a fantasy. I can see no practical application on the horizon for such a thing. So to answer the question of what’s the point – that’s easy. It makes tree-hugging earth-first leftists feel good – and isn’t that the most important thing? After all – it states on the website: “It appeals to one’s emotions.”

Still, as long as this pipe dream is privately funded, which for the most part it is (Google is sponsoring it), they can fly to the moon for all I care. Just don’t go digging into our wallets to further this stupidity.

Also see,

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