Morocco is to be the record-breaking destination for the Solar Impulse aircraft later this year.
After its inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels in 2011, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg’s solar airplane will attempt, for the first time ever, to fly over 2,500 km (1,550 miles) without using a drop of fuel, finally landing in Morocco. This trip will coincide with the launch of work in the region of Ouarzazate to construct the largest solar power plant ever built.
During May or June, Solar Impulse will take off for its longest ever flight, crossing the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns to fly the aircraft on its 48-hour journey, with a scheduled intermediate stopover near Madrid to change pilots.
This long-duration flight will serve as a dress rehearsal for the round-the –world flight in 2014. It will allow the Mission team to gather additional experience in cooperating with international airports, integrating the prototype into regular air traffic patterns, and managing the logistics of maintenance.
“We didn’t have a moment’s hesitation in accepting the idea of working with Morocco”, declared André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse. “This destination corresponds fully with the goals we had set ourselves, in terms of distance and flight duration.” He added: “Flying as far as this, powered only by solar energy will be excellent training for the round-the-world trip.”
The Solar Impulse team will be welcomed in Morocco by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), whose role is to develop Morocco’s solar energy plan. This program is the most ambitious not only in the region but world-wide, in terms of its innovative strategies and large-scale integration of solar technologies.
When they arrive in Morocco, the pilots will symbolically present to their hosts samples of the solar technologies exploited by Solar Impulse.
Morocco intends by 2020 to build five solar complexes, generating in total 2000 megawatts and preventing the emission over time of 3.7 million tons of CO2. The solar-thermal power plant in the region of Ouarzazate, which will have a capacity of 160 MW, is part of the solar 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 His Majesty the King Mohammed VI and the intelligent energy policy adopted by Morocco. We are delighted to support it. Theirs is a pioneering project, which clearly demonstrates that the clean technologies we are promoting with Solar Impulse also have a role to play in everyday life”, declared an enthusiastic Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of Solar Impulse.
In his reply, Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Management Board of MASEN, confirmed that “it is quite natural, given the convergence between our respective convictions and goals, that Solar Impulse and MASEN combine forces for a project that brings to life the ideals and values that inspire us.”