Solar Impulse secures $20m funding to complete second leg of journey


Speaking at the COP21 UN climate summit in Paris, Swiss pilots and co-founders of Solar Impulse – Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard – have confirmed that the project has raised a further $20 million in funding to enable the team to embark on the second leg of its historic journey.

Grounded in Hawaii since July, the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) plane will spend the winter in a hangar at Kalaeloa receiving further repairs to damage sustained during the first few legs of the flight.

Having taken off from Abu Dhabi in March, the Si2 was making good progress until inclement weather conditions in China caused weeks of delays, and the record-breaking five-day flight across the Pacific between Japan and Hawaii caused the batteries to overheat.

Since landing, the aircraft has been extensively repaired, during which time the Si2 team has sought to raise further investment in the project, chart the course of its next leg, and continue to advocate the power of clean energy in changing the world.

"The financial side is under control," Borschberg – who flew the record-breaking five-day leg over the Pacific – told Reuters. "We are all very focused and looking forward to continuing next year." Since the project was first envisioned in 2004, Si2 has raised more than $170 million in investment.

Prior to the delays and the plane damage, the team had hoped to have returned to Abu Dhabi before year’s end, thus completing the world’s first solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe. Although a setback, the pilots are determined to complete the journey early next year, and plan to resume test flights in March before embarking on the 2,500 mile leg from Hawaii to the west coast of the U.S.

The exact landing point remains undecided. The team will monitor weather conditions in April before deciding on San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix or even Vancouver in Canada, Borschberg confirmed.

The Si2 is fitted with 17,248 solar cells supplied by SunPower, and Borschberg says April days offer enough sunlight to ensure the plane’s four batteries are fully recharged each day before nightfall. The sun will then power the aircraft on to a U.S. Midwest airfield, then towards New York’s JFK, then over to Europe or North Africa before the final journey back to where it all began last March – Abu Dhabi.

"We know we can do it, but it remains a challenge," the 62-year-old added.

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