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Why A Pioneering Feat of Aviation Shows How Solar Energy Really Can Take Flight

Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day – and solar power, too, has faced its challenges in becoming an accepted, affordable solution for Kiwi households.

At Harrisons Energy Solutions, we work alongside the pioneers of the industry every day – companies such as Tesla, LG and SolarEdge – and we recognise the energy and investment required to push boundaries when it comes to clean, green, renewable power.

New Zealand has boldly committed to spending time, energy and investment ensuring we produce 100% renewable energy by 2035 and zero carbon emissions by 2050. But if you want proof that achieving these goals is going to be much harder than setting them, then the recent visit to New Zealand of two documentary filmmakers is a salutary lesson.

Filmmakers, Quinn Kanaly and Noel Dockstader, came to New Zealand ahead of screenings of their film The Point of No Returnat the Doc Edge Festival in Auckland and Wellington.

Their film is centred around the first solar-powered flight around the world aboard Solar Impulse 2 – a paper-thin, carbon fibre and fabric aircraft that weighs about the same as a family car, has a wingspan of a 747 jet and is covered in more than 17,000 solar cells.

Billed as one of the great scientific adventure stories of the century, the feature-length film follows pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg as they take turns battling nature to achieve the impossible: flying 26,000 miles powered only by the sun, to prove the potential of clean energy.

When Piccard finally touched down at the end of the epic journey back in July 2016, he told The Guardian newspaper he wanted people to realise the flight was “not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy”.

“All the clean technologies we use, they can be used everywhere. So, we have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. It is up to every person in a house to take it further, every head of state, every mayor in a city, every entrepreneur or CEO of a company.

“These technologies now can make the world much better and we have to use them, not only for the environment, but also because they are profitable and create jobs.”

While Piccard and Borschberg are continuing their fight for clean energy – Piccard is spearheading the World Alliance for Energy Efficient Solutions and Borschberg is helping develop the next generation of electric planes – Kanaly and Dockstader’s world tour of their documentary is intended to inspire those of us who continue to push solar’s potential benefits.

The documentary is especially strong in highlighting the challenges of the epic flight – the experimental plane was susceptible to rough weather and the pilots were forced to take only short naps while facing potentially fatal consequences at every moment. Battery power frequently fell below 10% at the end of night flights, and Borschberg’s five-day, five-night, epic 5,545 mile flight over the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii was the longest solo flight in history.

Those challenges were precisely the important factors the filmmakers wanted to stress to their Kiwi audience.

“We didn’t know if the plane would make it around the world or if we would have a story in the end. It was a moon-shot. But we knew we had to try to capture this moment in history,” they said.

“As we face profound environmental challenges today, we want this story of innovation to bring hope for the future. At its core, this film is about the grit and courage it takes to make difficult decisions when everything is on the line.”

At the completion of Solar Impulse 2’s journey two years ago, then UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon agreed that the flight was about more than pioneering aviation.

“You may be ending your around the world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future.”

In New Zealand we are already committed to creating a more sustainable world and we, at Harrisons Energy Solutions, believe we can all play our part in reducing our energy generated from fossil fuels and producing zero carbon emissions.

Domestic solar generation is exactly the sort of pioneering technology that is leading our potential to create a sustainable environment in New Zealand, and, together with advancements in smart home and electric vehicle technology, is a smart solution to one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime.

For more information about how you can play your part in the solar revolution, or arrange a free in-home energy audit at a time that suits you, contact us on 0800 00 33 54 or via the website.