Solar Impulse takes to the skies to show we can run the world without consuming the earth

After a winter break in Hawaii, the Solar Impulse round-the-world mission has taken off again, with the aim of becoming the first plane to circumnavigate the globe without consuming a single drop of fossil fuel. ABB is providing essential technical support through its innovation and technology alliance with the pioneering project. Together, we are spreading the message that we can decouple economic growth from environmental impact.

Test flight in Hawaii. Image Courtesy: Solar Impulse | Revillard |
"ABB's alliance with Solar Impulse reflects our shared belief that with clean technologies, such as solar power, we can run the world without consuming the earth," said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. "ABB and Solar Impulse complement each other perfectly because what Solar Impulse is achieving in the air, ABB is doing on the ground as a technology leader that enables utility, industry, and transport & infrastructure customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact."

Having made an important contribution to the Solar Impulse mission last year, both before take-off and at the plane’s various landing sites, ABB has again assigned an engineer to accompany the Solar Impulse ground crew throughout the flight, which will fly east across the continental United States and the Atlantic to its starting point in Abu Dhabi.

ABB teams will also be on hand to welcome pilot and plane at stopovers and provide any assistance needed on the ground. ABB and Solar Impulse will be continuing their close collaboration to raise awareness of the mission and its aims among businesses, officials, students and the general public.

Another training flight in Hawaii. Image Courtesy: Solar Impulse | Revillard |
"Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but to demonstrate that alternative energy sources and new technologies can power the world sustainably," said Solar Impulse co-founder and pilot, Bertrand Piccard. "Our alliance with ABB is a perfect match because we have the same goal of improving the world by using energy more efficiently and conserving natural resources."

To reach Hawaii, which involved a record-breaking 118-hour flight from Japan, Solar Impulse had to overcome many of the same technological challenges that need to be solved to enable an energy transition to a low-carbon world. These include reducing energy consumption to the absolute minimum, integrating renewable energy into the electricity system, and battery technologies for energy storage to power the plane at night.

During the second part of the mission, ABB will be presenting ground-based solutions to these challenges, such as microgrids which integrate renewables into grid-connected systems, and digital technologies that manage multi-directional flows of electricity, and balance supply and demand. The first ABB event of 2016 was a press trip on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on April 15, where ABB power conversion technologies are helping to ensure a stable and reliable electricity supply at a new solar energy park. The solution allows the utility company to drastically cut its polluting diesel fuel imports and rely more heavily on solar, biomass and hydropower.

Throughout the mission, ABB engineer Eoin Caldwell will be sending regular reports and updates via social media and our Solar Impulse microsite,, where you will also find videos, blogs and articles that show that it is possible to run the world without consuming the earth.

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