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SPC-2010-07 HB-SIA SOLAR AIRPLANE
December 2011: SunPower Corporation, a Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems, announced that the company is providing solar cells to the Solar Impulse project. The Solar Impulse team has produced a prototype (HB-SIA) solar airplane that, for the first time in aviation history, succeeded in flying for 26 consecutive hours powered only by solar energy. A second solar airplane (HB-SIB) is currently under construction with plans to circumnavigate the globe in 2014. Both planes are powered by SunPower’s high-efficiency solar cells.
SunPower’s Maxeon™ solar cell technology was selected because of its industry-leading efficiency and thickness of its solar cell, an average of only 135 microns, which is important for the power to weight ratio of the airplane. After the success of the first solar plane, a second airplane is under construction using approximately 22,000 of the SunPower solar cells. The cells will be incorporated into the plane’s wings and horizontal stabilizer, with each cell producing an efficiency of approximately 22.7%. The solar cells will power the electrical engines, storing the excess solar energy for the night flying in lithium batteries.
“SunPower is pleased to be involved with such an ambitious project as the Solar Impulse airplane as it prepares for its record-setting, around-the-world flight,” said Tom Werner, SunPower President & (CEO). “As a vertically integrated company, SunPower not only powers distinctive projects such as Solar Impulse, but our high-efficiency, high-reliability solar panels are chosen by residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers worldwide. We are confident that our experience in developing our industry-leading technology with guaranteed performance will help the Solar Impulse airplane to successfully achieve its goal to circumnavigate the globe.”
The successful day and night solar flight achieved in July 2010 brought the initial phase of the Solar Impulse adventure launched by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg to a successful conclusion, validating their goal of demonstrating the enormous potential of new technologies for saving energy and renewable forms of energy. The lessons learned from this first prototype are now being incorporated into the development of a second airplane, (HB-SIB), which will attempt to fly round the world starting in 2014.
“We are pleased to partner with SunPower, a leader in designing and delivering high-efficiency solar technologies. SunPower’s solar cells are optimum for this project, as they offer the performance and low-weight that is needed for our revolutionary solar airplanes,” said André Borschberg, Solar Impulse Co-Founder & (CEO).
“A pioneer in its field, SunPower represents the kind of partner we like to collaborate with to not only power the world’s first manned solar airplane, but to also spread our message on the benefits of renewable energy,” added Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse Initiator & Chairman.
SunPower has a legacy of powering unique solar projects. In 1993, SunPower’s high-efficiency solar cells drove a Honda car to win the World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia a full day ahead of the second place finisher. The company also worked with (NASA) (NAS) to develop the unmanned Helios solar plane that flew to a record altitude of 96,863 feet, also powered by SunPower high-efficiency solar cells. Most recently, SunPower partnered with Planet Solar to power the world’s largest solar catamaran that is currently on an around-the-world tour, arriving at most destinations ahead of schedule, weather permitting. Since 2005, SunPower has supported university students with high-efficiency SunPower solar systems for their solar home entries in the USA Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. And in 2009, the company also supported students with their entries in the first Solar Decathlon Europe.