Photovoltaic Solar Power Plane’s historic flight to Morocco

The Swiss solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse , touched down to a warm welcome in Rabat, Morocco last night, flying from Madrid and successfully completing the second leg of its record-breaking 2,500-kilometer intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.

Mustapha Bakkoury, President, Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, (MASEN), joined in welcoming pilot Bertrand Piccard, who called the flight over the Strait of Gibraltar "a magical moment" and noted that Solar Impulse made the trip "without one drop of fossil fuel." In Morocco, the Solar Impulse team will join events highlighting the convergence and capacity of renewable energy technologies, particularly solar power, under the patronage of King Mohammed VI and at the invitation of MASEN, which oversees Morocco’s solar energy development.

The solar-powered flight coincides with construction launch in southern Morocco of the world’s largest concentrating solar thermal power plant, a World Bank-financed project commencing in Ouarzazate that will harness the Sahara sun to produce 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy for North Africa and Europe and create jobs for many in the area. Ouarzazate is the solar plane’s next destination, after a five-day stopover in Rabat.

MASEN’s Bakkoury called the Solar Impulse flight important forraising awareness about solar energy’s potential to reduce global dependence on oil. "We share a common message with Solar Impulse," he said. "Solar energy is no longer restricted to the scientific world but is becoming an integral part of our daily lives." He said Morocco will be producing solar-energy by 2014, when Solar Impulse plans its round-the-world tour.

For pilots, Piccard and Andre Borschberg, it was all about the flying.

Borschberg piloted the first leg from Switzerland to Madrid on May 25th, flying the 207-ft wing-span plane with its 12,000 solar cells. In Rabat he said, "This flight marks a new stage in the history of the project."

Landing with a full set of batteries was "extraordinary and represents an increase in confidence in new technologies."

Piccard said, "Solar Impulse symbolizes the pioneering and explorer spirit necessary to find new solutions, outside of old habits and certainties, to respond to today’s challenges."