Solar Impulse on its way to Rabat

With its lithium ion batteries solar-powered to 95% of their capacity, the aircraft reached an altitude of 4 km an hour after takeoff.

It is currently flying at a speed of 57 km per hour over Spain on its first intercontinental flight announced on May 25. A year ago, the Solar Impulse made a successful flight from Switzerland to France and Denmark.

The trip will coincide with the start of work in Morocco’s Ouarzazate region to construct the largest concentrating solar power plant ever built. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) will welcome Piccard and Borschberg after the landing. MASEN is leading the implementation of the integrated Moroccan Solar Plan, which aims at developing a minimum power capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020.

Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse, is excited about landing in Morocco as a first non-European destination: "This corresponds fully with the goals we had set ourselves, in terms of distance and flight duration. Flying as far as this, powered only by solar energy, will be excellent training for the round-the-world trip planned for 2014."

Leverkusen-based company Bayer MaterialScience became an Official Partner of the Swiss Solar Impulse project in 2010. Since then, more than two dozen researchers have been working at the company’s laboratories in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen on ideas for lightweight construction and energy efficiency. Material solutions are, for example, part of the plane’s pilot cabin, the wings and the motor gondolas. Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, believes the project reflects Bayer’s intentions to use Science for a Better Life: "Solar Impulse is a real challenge – in particular in regard to lightweight materials. Through the use of innovative materials, we can help find solutions for energy efficiency and ‘clean’ energy."

By 2020, Morocco plans to build five solar power complexes, which will generate a total of 2,000 MW and avoid the emission over time of 3.7 million tons of CO2. The concentrating solar thermal power plant in the Ouarzazate region is part of the solar energy complex, housing a range of solar installations which, by 2015, will generate a total of 500 MW.

"We are full of admiration for the vision of this pioneering project, which clearly demonstrates that the clean technologies we are promoting with Solar Impulse also have a role to play in everyday life", said Piccard, originator and President of Solar Impulse.