Solar plane takes off for Ouarzazate; Returns to Rabat after unexpectedly strong headwinds

For updates and to watch Solar Impulse LIVE, go to: www.moroccoonthemove.com/solar

Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center (Washington, DC, June 13, 2012) After completing its historic 2,500-kilometer intercontinental flight to Morocco last week, the Swiss solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse, took off Wednesday for Ouarzazate in southern Morocco, but returned to Rabat after experiencing unexpectedly strong headwinds.

Pilot André Borschberg lifted off in the pioneering solar-powered aircraft from Rabat on Wednesday morning at about 8 AM local time on what was expected to be Solar Impulse’s most difficult flight yet, because of turbulence from the arid, hot climate and proximity to the Atlas range.

Solar Impulse mission control said the solar plane and pilot Andre Borschberg “are not in danger, but (the headwind) is hindering the advancement of the Solar Impulse to its final destination.”

“The flight director has made the decision to turn back to the departure airport Rabat,” said Solar Impulse mission control. The solar plane safely touched down at Rabat airport late Wednesday night.

“The mission team is working on a new route,” said the Solar Impulse team of it’s next attempt to fly to Ouarzazate.  “We’ll know more in the next few days.” For more updates, go to www.moroccoonthemove.com/solar.

The solar plane, powered by 12,000 solar cells in its 207-ft wing-span and not a drop of fossil fuel, touched down in Morocco on June 5 after flying from Switzerland via Madrid. After landing, the Solar Impulse team joined events highlighting renewable energy technologies, under the patronage of King Mohammed VI and at the invitation of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, MASEN, which oversees Morocco’s solar energy plans.

MASEN President Mustapha Bakkoury welcomed Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard at Rabat’s airport, calling the flight important for raising awareness about solar energy’s potential to reduce global dependence on oil, and saying, “we share a common message with Solar Impulse.” He said Morocco will be producing solar energy by 2014, when Solar Impulse plans its round-the-world tour.

The solar flight to Morocco coincides with construction launch of a World Bank-financed solar thermal project in Ouarzazate — the first of five sites — that will produce 2,000 megawatts of energy from the Sahara sun and create many jobs in the area.  It will be the world’s largest solar-thermal plant and provide clean, renewable power for North Africa and Europe.

For more information on Solar Impulse and Morocco’s solar energy plans:

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