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The Solar Impulse Legacy

JackSawyer MA, United States 0 Ratings 11 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: JackSawyer // Student

The Solar Impulse, a solar powered airplane that travelled around the world in 16 months, may not transform the airline industry just yet, but one of the immediate legacy's this feat will leave is an impact on the domestic energy market.

The Solar Impulse completed its voyage around the world without using a single drop of fuel - a truly extraordinary feat. However, while this is a great accomplishment for solar, there are still many technical limitations that will prevent us from seeing solar powered boeings in the not to distant future. The Solar Impulse used a combination of 17,000 solar panels and 4 batteries to stay in the air but only generated around 70 horsepower. In comparison, a Boeing 747 can generate around 70,000 horsepower. Solar panels cannot create the power necessary to compete with the speeds of today's airplanes and I don't think many people would trade a 6 hour plane ride from New York to London for a emission free, crazy long, solar powered ride. Whats more, the airplane managed 70 horsepower with just one passenger and weighed a little more than a family car. If we want to see a more widespread use of solar powered planes in the future, we will need significant technological advancements: we will need to have solar cells harness more power from the sun, the size and form factor of the cells must become smaller and more versatile, and batteries will need to have a greater storage capacity. Although the Solar Impulse has showed us it is possible, it has also showed us the current shortcomings of solar flight. So until some of these advancements occur, what was the Solar Impulse's immediate legacy?

According to Oxford University researcher Neil Ashton, the Solar Impulse will accelerate the domestic power market in leaps and bounds. The Solar Impulse was great publicity for solar technology, demonstrating to the public how far solar has come and what it is capable of. Furthermore, it showed people that solar has the potential to replace oil, people already new this with the recent establishment of electric cars on the market, but seeing a solar powered plane tells people that solar can substitute many, if not all, our power requirements in the future. Ashton predicts that the success of the Impulse will spur more people to invest in solar panels for their homes and help grow and diversify the green energy market. With more investments going into the clean energy market, the growing awareness of global warming, and now this solar achievement, it looks like a positive future for a carbon-free world. The question is whether or not we can transition fast enough before we have left irreversible effects on the planet.

What do you the Solar Impulse's legacy is? Where do you see the future of the green energy market heading? What effect do you think the Impulse has had or will have on the market?

Ashton, Neil. "Solar Impulse's Biggest Legacy Will Be in Your Home – Not in the Skies." Eco-Business. N.p., 29 July 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. <>.



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