You Could Fly to France on Solar Powered Plane Then Drive on a Solar Panel Road
Article originally published April 25, 2016
Solar energy is finding its way into innovations big and small all over the world -- and the sky's the limit.
This week, the Solar Impulse 2, an entirely solar-powered experimental airplane, completed a groundbreaking 17-leg trip around the world that was 13 years in the making. The 48 hour, 37 minute flight from Cairo, Egypt, to Abu Dhabi, UAE, was piloted by Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman Bertrand Piccard.
Piccard and his co-founder André Borschberg began their journey in March of 2015 in Abu Dhabi and have traversed more than 26,000 miles without traditional fuel. In July, after a record-breaking 117 hours and 52 minute-long solo flight from Japan to Hawaii, the plane -- a one-seater with a 72-meter wingspan -- had to be grounded to fix its damaged battery pack.
Solar Impulse isn't the only innovator trying to harness the power of the sun in an unexpected way. Just this week, a group of researchers at Belgium's University of Ghent announced that they have created a solar-powered machine that converts urine into fertilizer, and most important, potable water.
The scientists put their machine to work at a 10-day music summer music festival in Ghent earlier this month. The machine made 100 liters of water that will be used to make, naturally, beer, but the scientists also see the project as a way to aid regions where water is in short supply.
For more about how solar technology is making a major impact in a wide range of industries, from architecture to animal conservation, check out our slideshow below.
George Airport, located in Western Cape Province in South Africa, is Africa's first solar-powered airport. Forty percent of the airport's electricity comes from the panels that were installed for nearly $1 million. Some 600,000 travelers fly in and out of the airport every year. Officials in Africa are looking to equip eight more airports with the technology. Last year, the Cochin International Airport Limited in Kerala, India, became the first airport in the world to be solar powered.
Designer Pauline van Dongen has made an assortment of solar-powered garments, including a winter parka, jacket, dress, and most recently, a stylish shirt. The wearer of the T-shirt can use the power of the sun absorbed by the clothing to charge a mobile phone within two hours.
This week, Singapore announced that the country's commercial and industrial entities are now able to purchase solar-generated power from the national power grid in an effort to cut down on environmental emissions.
This month saw the opening of the first solar-powered road. The 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long route is in Tourouvre-au-Perche, a village in Normandy, France, with 3,400 residents. It cost 5 million euros ($5232000) to build, and the road, with its 30,000 square feet of solar panels, is being tested over a two-year trial period to see if it can actually create enough energy to power the village’s street lights. Ségolène Royal, the country’s Minister of Environment and Energy, has a goal to install a stretch of solar paneled road on every highway in France, but time will tell if the benefits outweigh the costs.