June 12, 2012

Update: Solar Impulse Continues Journey Through Morocco

Lawrence LeBlond for

One week after its arrival in Rabat, Morocco, the ultra-lightweight Solar Impulse aircraft is scheduled to take flight south to Ouarzazate for the first time traveling over a desert-like and mountainous climate, according to the project´s leaders.

Andre Borschberg, pilot of the plane that runs on four electric motors, powered only by the Sun´s energy, said this next stage will be the most difficult flight the plane has yet encountered. Because of the arid and hot climate and the proximity to the Atlas Mountains, the atmospheric conditions are extremely turbulent.

In preparations for the next upcoming flight, scheduled to lift off tomorrow (June 13) at 8:00 a.m. local time, Borschberg undertook a reconnaissance mission to the Ouarzazate meteorological station to better understand the local meteorological conditions.

Solar Impulse will take off from Rabat-Sale International Airport, beginning with a demo flight over Rabat. The project leaders are evaluating two itineraries for the flight. The first takes the plane down the coastline at an altitude of 28,000 feet to Agadir via Essaouira, avoiding the Atlas Mountains. The second would lead the aircraft toward Casablanca and then to Marrakesh, landing just after midnight on June 14 at Ouarzazate International Airport.

An interesting fact of Solar Impulse´s journey through Morocco is that it is landing not far from where solar energy firm MASEN is constructing the world´s largest thermo-solar power plant. The plant, based on concentrating solar power (CSP) technology using parabolic trough solar collectors with heat storage, is the first of five to be built in Morocco. MASEN looks to supply upwards of 42 percent of Morocco´s energy needs through renewable resources (wind, solar, and hydro power) within 10 years. It plans to be up and running by 2015.

The country´s move to distance itself from reliance on fossil energy is well-supported by the Solar Impulse team. Since the Solar Impulse project arrived in Morocco, official events have been scheduled for schools, universities, associations and political personalities, teaching the science of solar power.

Photos and videos of the events will be uploaded to daily.

Solar Impulse´s flight director, Tahan Pangaribuan, said although the flight has been confirmed, it may be necessary to postpone or alter the route before takeoff depending on local weather.

The original redOrbit story can be found here.