Sustainable Energy

Solar Impulse 2: How it could change the world

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Solar planes could be the future of flying

History has been made. Solar Impulse 2, the solar powered plane, touched down last week in Abu Dhabi after a 48-hour flight from Cairo in Egypt. The landing marked the end of a record-breaking round-the-world trip that has set new levels for what clean technology can achieve.

Speaking to CNBC shortly after landing in Abu Dhabi last Tuesday, pilot and chairman Bertrand Piccard said the round-the-world trip had "some elating moments but also difficult moments, setbacks even, and this is the definition of adventure."

Before the last leg of their historic trip was completed, both Piccard and André Borschberg, chief executive and pilot of Solar Impulse, spoke to Sustainable Energy about their mission and its goals.

Jean Revillard | Getty Images

Piccard is confident that the message his and Borschberg's mission conveys is a positive one.

"The protection of the environment is possible with profitable solutions that are called 'clean technologies' that allow Solar Impulse to fly day and night with no fuel (and) that can be implemented in our society every day, creating jobs and making profits," he said.

The trip has drawn praise from across the world. "Like Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing or Yeager's breaking of the sound barrier, Solar Impulse has accomplished something truly ground-breaking, proving practical what was once thought impossible," Erik Solheim, the United Nations Environment Programme's executive director, said in a statement.

Even Leonardo DiCaprio got in on the act, congratulating the team and describing their trip as "amazing and innovative."

DiCaprio Tweet

Borschberg told Sustainable Energy that saving energy was a key goal of the mission. "It's all about energy savings: to be able to fly through the night with the energy we get from the sun during the day," he said. "It's the most energy efficient airplane ever designed, ever flown," he added.

Another aim of the trip was changing attitudes with the achievements of the project. "I hope that the result of this project will be the people understanding that you can achieve absolutely incredible goals with renewable energies and energy efficiency and new monitoring technologies," Piccard said.

"If people understand that, and if people start to use more of these technologies and if the governments understand that they have to put a legal framework with a more ambitious energy policy, then Solar Impulse will be a huge success," he added.