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SunPower Solar Powered Impulse 2 Airplane

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.

A Trip Around The World

The journey around the world took a very long time—505 days to fly 25,000 miles (42,000 km) at an average speed of about 45 mph (70 kph)—but pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, after flying around the world using only the power of the Sun. Solar Impulse 2 is equipped with more than 17,000 SunPower solar cells.

While the journey itself was seen as a first for many, for the pilots it was about promoting clean technologies and demonstrating what solar energy can do for current and future generations.

“In our world today, if we want a better quality of life, to create jobs, to make a profit for the industry, to sustain growth for our world, we need new clean technologies, because this is what the world needs,” Solar Impulse chairman, Bertrand Piccard

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