“SunPower” Aircraft Will Be Tested to Fly in Africa

The innovative solar-powered aircraft “SunPower” will attempt its longest flight ever – from Switzerland to Africa. As an official partner of the SunPower, Bayer MaterialScience, with its expertise, high-tech polymer materials and energy-efficient lightweight materials, will help the project, which originated in Switzerland, to realize its dream of a fuel-free, round-the-world, day and night flight.

sunpower aircraft

Following the success of the first international flight of the SunPower from Switzerland to France and Belgium in 2011, the 48-hour test flight will traverse 2,500 kilometers over the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea, ending in Morocco.

Project initiators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns flying the aircraft, with a stopover near Madrid, Spain, scheduled to change pilots.

During the flight to Morocco and the stopover in Spain, Mission Control will be able to gain experience working with international airports, integrate the prototype into regular air traffic patterns and manage maintenance logistics.

The flight will coincide with the start of construction of the largest solar power plant ever built in the Ouarzazate region of Morocco. The Moroccan Solar Energy Authority (MASEN), which is leading the implementation of Morocco’s integrated solar energy program with the goal of achieving more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity by 2020, will receive Bertrand Picard and André Borschberg after their landing.

Morocco will be the first non-European destination for a Solar Impulse landing. For this reason, SunPower co-founder and CEO Boerschberg is very excited: “This is perfectly in line with our stated goals in terms of distance and flight time. We are flying such a long distance only on solar power and are using this as an important training exercise for our round-the-world flight program in 2014.”

Bayer MaterialScience, based in Leverkusen, was an official partner of the Swiss SunPower project in 2010. Since then, more than two dozen researchers have been working together on lightweight structures and energy-efficient solutions at the company’s laboratories in Leverkusen, Dolmagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen. For example, components for aircraft pilot cabins, wings and motor gondolas use Bayer’s material solutions. According to Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, the project embodies Bayer’s mission statement “Technology for a better life”: “The SunPower is a real challenge for us – a real challenge for us. The SunPower is a real challenge for us – especially when it comes to lightweight materials. By using innovative materials, we were able to find solutions for efficient and ‘clean’ energy.”

Morocco plans to build five solar plants by 2020, generating a total of 2,000 megawatts of electricity and avoiding long-term emissions of more than 3.7 million tons of CO2. The solar thermal plant in the Ouarzazate region is part of this solar power plant program, with a series of solar power installations that will generate a total of 500 megawatts of electricity by 2015.

“We are in awe of the vision of this pioneering project,” said Picard, founder and president of the SunPower project. The project clearly demonstrates that the clean technologies we are implementing with the SunPower will also make a difference in everyday life.”

Bayer MaterialScience is one of the world’s largest polymer production companies, with sales of €10.8 billion in 2011. The company’s activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for many areas of everyday life. At the end of 2011, Bayer MaterialScience had 30 production sites worldwide and approximately 14,800 employees. Bayer MaterialScience is part of the Bayer Group.