Triumphant landing at Ouarzazate
After a first failure to reach Ouarzazate last week, the Solar Impulse aircraft of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg has completed its flight to Morocco's southern region of Ouarzazate. The prototype landed successfully on Friday 22 June. This was Solar Impulse's most difficult destination until now, due to the hot and arid desert climate full of turbulences and high wind.
The Solar Impulse airplane took-off in the morning from Rabat-Salé. After flying in the direction of Casablanca, the HB-SIA made its way inland towards Marrakesh, avoiding the Atlas Mountains, and flying in the direction of the desert. After a flight lasting a total of 17h20min and 683 km, André Borschberg safely landed the solar aircraft in Ouarzazate International Airport, Kingdom of Morocco.
"It was a beautiful flight with some amazing contrasts between the coast and interior landscapes, but the highlight was the view of the Atlas Mountains: breathtaking!" said André Borschberg to the cheering of the Solar Impulse team, the governor of Ouarzazate, mayor of Marrakesh and local journalists. "It still remains one of the most difficult flights we've done and it wasn't easy to find the adequate altitude to avoid turbulence, to charge the batteries and to avoid being too cold. But Ouarzazate was our final destination and we made it! It is a great satisfaction to finally be here for our project and our host," said André Borschberg as he exited the aircraft.
This was the HB-SIA's second attempt to complete the challenge of flying in an arid and hot climate frequently filled with thunderstorms, strong winds and thermal currents which can be fatal for the solar aircraft. Thanks to the sophisticated modeling programmes of the Solar Impulse mission control centre, support from the Ouarzazate meteorologists and André's expert piloting skills, the flight concluded smoothly and successfully.
"Striving for the impossible is the DNA of our team," commented Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of Solar Impulse, referring to the extreme challenge of reaching this difficult destination.
"We are glad André, Bertrand and the overall team could make this dream come true. We believed in their capacity to do so and are very proud to warmly welcome them in Ouarzazate where every single person was awaiting us," said Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) President Mustapha Bakkoury.
The importance of flying to Morocco's Ouarzazate region is filled with symbolism. It is related to MASEN and Solar Impulse's common message: to invest in innovative projects today for job creation and sustainable growth while also protecting the environment. Under the patronage of His Highness King Mohammed VI and upon the invitation of MASEN, Solar Impulse landed close to the site of what will be Ouarzazate's first thermo-solar power plant. With a capacity reaching 160 MW, this plant, based on concentrating solar power (CSP) technology using parabolic trough solar collectors with heat storage, is the first of what will be a complex constituting many solar plants meant to reach a capacity of 500 MW by 2015. An integral part of Morocco's energy plan, this pioneering project will contribute to increase the part of renewables (solar, wind and hydro power) to 42 per cent in the country's total energy production in less than 10 years. Solar Impulse supports the Kingdom's strategy, aiming to reconcile the country's socio-economic development and environmental protection needs.
As has happened every day since Solar Impulse's arrival in Morocco, official visits and events will take place for schools, universities, associations, local companies and political personalities. Photos and videos of the events will be uploaded on the Solar Impulse and MASEN websites and Blog.