Solar Impulse takes off from Rabat to Madrid

The experimental solar aircraft Solar Impulse, the first of its kind to make an intercontinental flight to Morocco, took off Friday from Rabat on its way back to Switzerland via Madrid.

The aircraft landed in Rabat on June 6, and headed for Ouarzazate, about 550 km south Rabat, on June 22 after having to quit an attempt a week earlier because of strong winds.

Ouarzazate is the construction site of what will be the world’s largest concentrating solar thermal power plant, expected to produce 160MW during its first phase and 500MW by 2015.

The solar thermal plant is based on concentrating solar power (CSP) technology using parabolic trough solar collectors with heat storage; it will be the largest of its kind.

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) and Solar Impulse share a common message, which is why Ouarzazate had always been the desired destination of the 2012 CrossingFrontiers mission. Both are engaged to invest in innovative projects today for job creation and sustainable growth while also protecting the environment. Just after take-off, André Borschberg made a loop around the construction site as a way to honor Morocco’s innovative project and give one last farewell before returning to the country’s capital city.

Solar Impulse is the first aircraft that can fly day and night without fuel or polluting emissions. It demonstrates the huge potential of new technologies in terms of energy reduction and the production of renewable energy.

This transcontinental mission is described by the organizers as a final dress rehearsal for a round-the-world flight with a new and improved plane in 2014. The project began in 2003 and is estimated to cost about 100 million U.S. dollars over 10 years.