Forget Planes, Trains & Automobiles, the 1980s John Candy/Steve Martin comedy classic -- the world’s first solar-powered plane and the world’s largest solar-powered boat are on their way to the city that never sleeps.
Solar Impulse is an innovative demonstration project designed to develop and showcase cutting-edge materials and solar technology. Breaking Energy met with project founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg back in March, when they were gearing up for the world’s first transcontinental solar plane flight from San Francisco to New York.
Solar Impulse is gearing up for the fourth leg of the cross-country journey from St. Louis/Lambert Airport to Washington, D.C./Dulles and will then embark on the final leg from D.C. to NY. The plane is scheduled to land at JFK International Airport in early July.
Aviation is an ideal vehicle for such a demonstration, explained Borschberg and Piccard when we spoke in March. Beginning with the Wright brothers, modern explorers, pioneers and innovators are both pushed and pulled by technology as they strive to achieve distant goals.
Not to mention the fact that “airplanes are exciting” said Piccard, and thus the perfect medium to draw people’s attention to the often dry subject of energy efficiency. Furthermore, “you can’t cheat in aviation,” said Borschberg -- it’s a difficult but effective demonstration of technology prowess.
Turning to the high seas, the world’s largest solar boat, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, is also coming to New York as “a global ambassador for solar energy.”
“PlanetSolar will stop in New York City in mid-June as part of its world tour to raise awareness for the role that photovoltaic energy can play to create a sustainable future. A team of scientists, led by professor and climatologist Martin Beniston from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), will harvest new data along the Gulf Stream to analyze the impact of climate change,” a spokesperson said in an email.
“The boat just beat its own world speed record for a trans-Atlantic crossing by a solar boat (22 days). More than 5,554.2 square feet (516 square meters) of the ship’s surface are covered with solar panels, which are powering the ship’s electric motors.”
And just to complete the theme, yes, there is in fact a solar-powered train, though it’s not coming to New York just yet. Maybe the MTA should get on that.