**Watch the landing live at www.moroccoonthemove.com/solar**
AFP, SolarServer, Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center (Rabat, Morocco, July 6, 2012) – The solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse, left the Moroccan capital on Friday for Madrid on its return journey to its home port in Switzerland. Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, the experimental plane which flies without fuel, took off shortly after 6:00 am (0700 GMT), heading towards Barajas airport in Madrid.
The Solar Impulse crossed the Strait of Gibraltar at mid-day, fought through headwinds, and touched down safely in Madrid after midnight (after 6:00 PM Eastern Time). After a stopover in Madrid, Solar Impulse will return to its home base in Switzerland — capping its first round-trip between Europe and North Africa.
The hi-tech aircraft, which has the wingspan of a jumbo jet but weighs no more than a medium-sized car, is fitted with 12,000 solar cells feeding four electric motors driving propellers. Strong winds had grounded the Swiss-made aircraft in Morocco on Tuesday, after it arrived in Rabat a week ago following a successful flight over the Moroccan desert.
The Solar Impulse team said the hightlight of their journey to Morocco was reaching Ouarzazate, the site of a World Bank-financed solar energy project, where Morocco is building the world’s largest solar-thermal plant to harness the power of the Sahara sun for North Africa and Europe. It is the first of five sites that will produce 2,000 megawatts of renewable, clean energy and also create many jobs in the area.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard said, ”During the numerous encounters we had with the Moroccan people, even in remote areas, what struck us the most was their awareness of the Solar Impulse program, understanding of the convergence between our airplane and the Moroccan energy policy, and their recognition of solar energy’s great potential to improve their lives.”
“I hope that Europe will learn from Morocco’s example,” said Piccard after landing in Madrid. “It’s precisely during times of global crisis that there needs to be an investment in renewable energies and energy savings, providing us with what’s necessary to sustain employment, purchasing power and a positive trade balance. Thank you Morocco for giving us the good example by building the world’s largest solar power plant.”
Last month, the solar plane completed its historic 2,500-kilometer (1,550-mile) journey from Switzerland to Madrid and then Rabat, its longest to date and its first between continents. On June 21, the Solar Impulse made the difficult flight to the Sahara desert and Ouarzazate.
Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) called the flight important for raising awareness about solar energy’s potential to reduce global dependence on oil. “We share a common message with Solar Impulse.” He said Morocco will be producing solar energy by 2014, when Solar Impulseplans to fly its round-the-world tour.
For more information on Solar Impulse and Morocco’s solar energy plans:
- Solar Impulse team: http://live.solarimpulse.com/
- Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN): http://www.masen.org.ma/index.php?Id=undefined&lang=en (English language available)
- Morocco’s Agence Nationale pour le Développement des Energies Renouvelables et de l’Efficacité Energétique (ADEREE): http://www.aderee.ma/ (English language available).