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The Solar Impulse 2 is flying around the globe entirely on solar power.

It's not likely the future of commercial air travel but a fantastic example of what can be done entirely with solar power.

March 2015 at Abu Dhabi UAE the Solar Impulse began its circumnavigation of Earth in multi-stage trip limited only by weather and pilot fatigue.

It has a crew of one and weighs about as much as an SUV with the wing span of a small commercial airliner. It takes off under its own power, has a cruise speed of 43mph, and a service ceiling of 27,900ft.

Solar Impulses' key component are its wings covered with almost 12,000 photovoltaic cells rated at 45kw powering 4 electric 10hp motors with direct current and lithium-ion batteries.

The project was financed by a number of private companies and individuals, as well as $6.4 million in funding from the Swiss government.

Solar Impulses' longest nonstop flight was from Japan to Hawaii: 3894-miles in just under 118 hours breaking the endurance record for solo flight by time for any aircraft.

July 2015: Solar Impulse is currently in Hawaii after a battery overheating issue following its record-breaking run. Projects like this push the limits of technology forward!

Go Solar!
via Steve

Energy from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is our cleanest and safest option currently available. It uses Earth's most plentiful and widely distributed renewable energy source—our Sun.

One hour of direct sun hitting the Earth's entire surface is enough to fill the World's electricity needs for a year.

Photovoltaics convert solar energy into direct current (DC) electricity using semi conducting materials that present the photovoltaic effect. The first step involves the photoelectric effect from which a second electrochemical process takes place involving crystallized atoms ionized in a series, generating a flow of electrons to be used simultaneously, or recharge a battery.

Over the last 20-years advances in technology and manufacturing have steadily reduced the cost of photovoltaics. In terms of renewable global capacity, solar PV is currently third behind hydro and wind power. For 2014 solar PV supplied about 1% of global electricity needs, with Germany generating 7% of its electricity through PV. However, the US is the fastest growing solar PV market.

Mostly we seen solar panels on residential roofs but they can and should be used everywhere there's a structure with direct sun: commercial buildings, car parks, even ground level mounted solar 'farms' make use of surfaces absorbing and reflecting radiation that could be generating electricity with PV.

One Northern European study calculated that the energy used to construct solar panels was recouped with electricity generation within 2 years. Currently technology is being developed to integrate PV into construction elements like roofs and walls rather than panels mounted above the surface. The technology also exists for photovoltaic glass.

Traditional hydroelectric dams rivers changing the landscape, blocking marine life and natural sedimentation movement. For some, wind power turbines create an unnatural, unsightly horizon. And they do create a collision threat for birds. Solar panels mount on construction elements that already exist. The exception are controversial desert solar farms that create a heat threat below and above the panels.

Residential solar panels used for a home's electricity needs can potentially create a surplus returned to the local power grid. The usable life of current PV panels is approximately 25 years.

Compared to fossil and nuclear energy sources, very little research money has been invested in the development of solar cells, so there is considerable room for improvement.

Constructing solar panels does have environmental impact. The manufacturing process involves emissions of several toxic, flammable and explosive chemicals. Currently in the field of photovoltaic research, there has been a development efforts focused on reducing mass during cell manufacture resulting in reducing the thickness of solar cells. The next generation solar cells are becoming thinner with risks of exposure are reduced.

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