First intercontinental solar plane lands in Morocco

solar_impulse_presThe Solar Impulse aircraft has 12,000 solar cells and can fly after the sun has set. (Image source: press.solarimpulse.com)The first intercontinental solar plane landed in Morocco recently, providing a welcome boost to the kingdom’s ambitious plan to draw 40 per cent of its energy from the sun by 2020

Swiss pilot and adventurer Bertrand Piccard flew the fragile-looking aircraft, Solar Impulse, from Spanish capital Madrid to Rabat International Airport in a trip that lasted 20 hours.

"I came here out of admiration for Morocco’s pioneering solar energy programme," said Piccard.

The project co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg added that the aircraft has proved its sustainability.

The plane, which has 12,000 solar cells, embarked on its first flight in April 2010 and completed a 26-hour flight three months later. 

Borschberg noted, "This flight shows solar energy is a technology that we can trust."

In 2009, Morocco announced a US$9 billion project to build five solar energy plants to harness the sun’s energy and produce 2,000 MW of electricity by 2020.

Mustafa Bakkouri, the head of Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, remarked, "With solar energy you can do many things. From flying a plane to using it for daily activities, people can make use of the endless power source of the sun. It’s no longer just in the realm of science.

"We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, most of which we import," he added.

Morocco is one of the few countries in the region almost wholly dependent on imports for its energy needs, and it has been hard hit by the soaring oil prices over the last few years.

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