HONOLULU — Powered only by the sun’s rays, the Solar Impulse 2 airplane brought its messages of innovation and clean energy to Hawaii as it neared the halfway point of its around-the- world flight without using fossil fuel.
The Swiss-made aircraft landed safely at Kalaeloa Airport Friday, completing a five-day trans-Pacific crossing from Japan, the longest leg of the historic flight. Solar Impulse 2 incorporates a host of innovative solutions into its design that make it lighter and allow it to consume far less energy than a traditional airplane.
“It is fitting that Solar Impulse 2 made its first U.S. stop in Hawaii, which is becoming one of the world’s leading test beds for clean energy development,” said Mark Glick, Hawaii State Energy Office administrator. “We understand the value of the research and development that went into Solar Impulse 2 as we work to attract investment and create a clean energy sector that we believe has tremendous economic potential for Hawaii”
Solar Impulse 2 began its epic journey on March 9, departing from Abu Dhabi, where it will return. Over the course of its mission Solar Impulse 2 will fly for nearly 500 hours, travel
19,000 nautical miles and cross two oceans and four continents. The highly efficient solar panels and lightweight lithium batteries developed specifically for the Solar Impulse 2 are examples of technological advances that can have a direct impact on efforts to reduce fossil fuel use in the electricity sector.
“Solar Impulse 2 utilizes pieces of technology that are a significant part of Hawaii’s energy portfolio,” Glick said. “The solar cells that cover the wings of the Solar Impulse 2 are a familiar sight here in Hawaii, which leads the nation in installed PV capacity per person.”
The Solar Impulse project is supported by several global technology companies, including ABB Inc., a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility, industry and transport companies to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in roughly 100 countries and employs about 140,000 people worldwide.
“ABB is pleased to join our technology and innovation partner, Solar Impulse, on this historic ‘around the world’ journey and extremely pleased to cross the Pacific Ocean and bring our message of building a better world to the United States,” said Greg Scheu, president, Americas region, ABB. “We’d like to say a special thank you to Hawaii, a state bursting with natural beauty and resources, for being an excellent example of why ABB’s focus on efficient and sustainable technologies is so important. We can power world the world without consuming the earth.”
The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, a larger version of a single-seat prototype that first flew five years ago, has a wingspan of about 235 feet, larger than that of the Boeing 747. Built into the wings are 17,248 ultra-efficient solar cells that transfer solar energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. The solar cells also recharge four lithium batteries that power the plane at night.