Solar Records Set

Piccard’s flight, California’s grid augment promise of renewable energy source

Late July: a great time for beaches, seasonal flowers, and solar energy production. When temperatures hit the 90s and stay there for days, the heat can be intrusive for many, but it’s a time when these areas flourish.

The state of California exhibited the potential of solar energy at its pinnacle when it set an astounding new mark for a single day’s solar production on July 12th. At 1:06 p.m., various solar plants spanning the state produced 8,030 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power more than 6 million households according to the California Independent System Operator—the organization that runs most of the state’s power grid. The previous mark was set earlier this year in May, when solar power in the state produced over 50% of a day’s energy, a striking amount at the time.

California ISO's Control Center in Folsom, CA.—Caiso photo

California ISO’s Control Center in Folsom, CA.—Caiso photo

Duly noted by various reports covering the story, the new record only included output from large solar plants—not even accounting for the 500,000+ smaller solar panel arrays used to power private homes and businesses.

The record adds to cumulative evidence that solar and wind power are the renewable energy sources of the future for California, which is currently grappling with how much nuclear power it should continue to utilize.

A separate solar-related record was set this week, when Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse 2 completed became the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe without using any fossil fuels. The plane, a culmination of a project Piccard and his team had been working on for 15 years, touched down in Abu Dhabi, UAE early Tuesday, the same place where it began back in March 2015. Alternating with copilot André Borschberg over the course of a 16-leg journey, the flight included stops in India, China, Hawaii, San Francisco, and New York City. Borschberg flew the longest leg, 4,000 miles over the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii, smashing the record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history. The last two stops before Abu Dhabi were in Seville, Spain, and Cairo, Egypt. Watch the live landing below, courtesy of Solar Impulse’s YouTube channel.

During daylight, the solar panels charged the plane’s batteries, which make up a quarter of the craft’s 2.3 ton weight. The pilot also climbed to 29,000 feet during the day and glided down to 5,000 feet at night, to conserve power. The plane flies at about 30 mph, although it can go faster if the sun is bright, according to a report by Damian Carrington of the Guardian.

Both milestones coming within a single week indicate a continuing augmentation of solar energy’s potential. While some geographical areas more reliant on fossil fuels are reluctant to trust solar power (and other forms of renewable energy), it appears more and more with every day, not only in implementation but production as well. If not now, when?


  1. Insert ‘Top Gun’ Reference Here | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - June 20, 2019

    […] half of the Solar Impulse team that was first to circumnavigate the globe in an electric/solar-powered airplane …, Andre Borschberg’s current project, H55, is a training-based program that debuts this Friday […]

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