Sunday, August 23, 2009

SOLAR ENERGY: The Solar Impulse Aeroplane - Environmentally Friendly Flight

By Jemma Hill

In a world almost entirely reliant on fossil or other non-replaceable fuels (such as uranium), the idea of finding a replacement source of energy can be hard to fathom on such a scale. Solar panels and wind turbines can produce electricity, yes, but they can't effectively power a car or a plane, can they?

That assumption is about to change. With the unveiling of the Solar Impulse, an aeroplane powered entirely by solar energy, the limit of solar power's usefulness has been challenged - particularly the world's assumptions about its basic fundamentals.

The main limitation that solar power has always faced is the fact that solar panels can only work while the sun is in the sky. This means that during the day, the energy must be stored in batteries; all very well if you're only using the power to turn the lights on at night, but not very useful if you need to, say, fly a plane day and night.

Despite that, this is exactly what the Solar Impulse plans to do in its attempt to be the first solar-powered aircraft to fly around the world. And its amazing design - a wingspan the size of a Boeing 747, and the weight of an average family car, means that it can continue to store ample energy to keep it aloft during the night, even while it flies through the day.

Unveiled in June 2009 by Bertrand Piccard (one of the two men who first flew non-stop around the world in the Breitling sponsored balloon Breitling Orbiter 3, and the man who initiated the project,) and Andre Borschberg, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will have made its first test flights by the end of the year, with an all-night flight over Switzerland planned for 2010. A second aircraft, the HB-SIB, will be built to make the 2012 flight around the world in five stages, each of which will last several days.

This is the culmination of six years of work for the team, a triumph of science, technology and the imagination and passion to keep going. And therefore it is only natural that esteemed watch manufacturer Omega should have been one of the sponsors for the project; it is a work of equal dedication to the intricate design work of a finely-tuned watch movement. The watch industry is also notable for many environmental interests from manufacturers across its spectrum, with many becoming carbon neutral and supporting initiatives across the world.

Omega's pioneering spirit also fits the theme of the Solar Impulse's mission, and Stephen Urquhart, Omega's President, said he hoped Omega would continue to work towards developments in sustainable energy. For an industry whose most prestigious and luxurious products can be powered simply by the swinging of the wearer's arm as he goes about his business, this is not an impossible dream. specialise in selling new and pre-owned watches of exceptional quality, from brands such as Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Tag Heuer, Breitling, IWC, Raymond Weil, Jaeger LeCoultre, Chanel, TW Steel, Longines, Panerai and many others. For more information, please visit

Jemma Hill is an author with a passion for both mechanical and quartz luxury watches.

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