SunPower helped achieve another milestone in renewable energy. After 14 months of travel and 550 hours in the air, the plane had accomplished what many had deemed impossible: traveling 25,000 miles around the world—over four continents, two oceans, and three seas—without a drop of liquid fuel. The sun's vibrant rays supplied the craft's only power.
The result of all of this work, Solar Impulse 2, is certainly a feat of engineering. The plane boasts a wingspan larger than a B-747 jumbo jet, but only weighs around 5,000 pounds, which is comparable to an average family car. A staggering 17,248 photovoltaic solar cells—each one resting on the wings and fuselage. These cells bask in the sunlight, charging the plane's four lithium batteries to keep its propellers spinning through the dark nighttime hours.
Because SunPower solar cells are highly efficient, durable, lightweight, and about as thin as a human hair, they were first chosen to power Solar Impulse 1 which flew across the U.S. in 2013 and set eight world records—including becoming the first solar-powered plane ever to fly through the night, between two continents and across the United States.
Founded and run by Swiss visionaries Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Solar Impulse project has continually set out to demonstrate that alternative energy sources can achieve what many have considered impossible. Solar Impulse 2, the culmination of 12 years of research and experimentation, is an engineering triumph capable of flying non-stop, day and night, powered solely by solar energy and limited only by the pilot's endurance.