MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – A solar powered airplane made its U.S. debut at Moffett Field here in preparation for a trip across America this summer. The HB-SIA from Solar Impulse aims to show the capabilities of renewable energy and inspire a new generation.
“We built this plane to prove the credibility of a solar flight through the night,” said Bertrand Piccard, a pilot and one of two co-founders of the project.
“Usually we are prisoners of old assumptions and a fear of failing,” said Piccard whose father and grandfather participated in pioneering submarine and high-altitude balloon projects. “Innovation is not so much about new ideas as getting rid of old ideas,” he said.
Project founders and pilots André Borschberg (right) and Bertrand Piccard address the press under their assembled plane.
The Swiss-made plane has already demonstrated its capability to fly though the night and still have 40-percent power left in its lithium polymer batteries. A second-generation plane is under construction that aims to fly around the world.
The HB-SIA uses 12,000 solar cells from SolarPower (San Jose). “It was important to start the flight across America in Silicon Valley because one of our partners is next door,” said co-founder and pilot André Borschberg.
At the event another partner, Schindler Elevator Corp. (Morristown, NJ), announced it has designed and installed in Spain a elevator powered by rooftop solar panels as part of its initiative to enable zero net-energy buildings. The company is one of 80 companies participating in the Solar Impulse project, for its part to get experience building with new lightweight materials.