Don’t you just wish that we could keep all the luxuries and toys of our technological age forever? Imagine an inexhaustible supply of energy to power all our electronic gadgets, carry us to work and fly us around the globe. Is that what we’re imagining when we think that renewable energy can become our sole source of power? That would be a wonderful wish to have come true.
The Solar Impulse 2, a plane powered solely by the Sun, is certainly an engineering marvel and perhaps helping our wish come true. Within it, two people have flown around our world. Two people stayed within the confines of something close in size to a phone booth and hopped over oceans and continents to achieve this feat. How practical is this? Well, consider that these two people needed more than 1 year to circumnavigate our globe. Then compare this to the current air fleet. In just one year the world fleet flew over 3.57 billion people from one place to another. As well, they carried about 42 million tonnes of cargo over the same year. Further, its motive power came from the consumption of huge amounts of jet fuel; about 17 billion gallons or 2.2e18 Joules of energy. That’s huge! How long will it take for solar power planes to match this feat?
We certainly should keep on wishing and dreaming. It’s through these aspirations that we’ve already unlocked the capability and versatility of fossil fuels and transformed this Earth. So what does our imagination aspire us to for the age that’s to follow the technological age?