The Future Is Bright: A Solar-Powered Plane and 5 Other Innovative Uses of Solar Power

Solar energy is finding its way into innovations big and small all over the world -- and the sky's the limit.

On Sunday, the Solar Impulse 2, an entirely solar-powered experimental airplane, was flown from Hawaii to California, successfully crossing the Pacific Ocean. The 62-hour flight was piloted by Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman Bertrand Piccard. Piccard and his co-founder André Borschberg are attempting to fly around the world utilizing only solar power.

The duo began their journey in Abu Dhabi last spring, and in July, after a record-breaking 117 hours and 52 minute-long solo flight from Japan to Hawaii, the plane -- a one-seater with a 72-meter wingspan -- had to be grounded to fix its damaged battery pack.

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Solar Impulse isn't the only innovator in the application of clean energy to aerospace technology. Last week, NASA laid out some of its goals for the development of the latest X-planes -- to "burn half the fuel and generate 75 percent less pollution during each flight as compared to now, while also being much quieter than today’s jets."

Here's a glance at some more of the ways solar technology is making an impact in a wide range of industries, ranging from architecture to animal conservation.


Bair175 | Wikimedia Commons

George Airport, located in Western Cape Province in South Africa, is Africa's first solar-powered airport. Forty percent of the airport's electricity comes from the panels that were installed for nearly $1 million. Some 600,000 travelers fly in and out of the airport every year. Officials in Africa are looking to equip eight more airports with the technology. Last year, the Cochin International Airport Limited in Kerala, India, became the first airport in the world to be solar powered.


Designer Pauline van Dongen has made an assortment of solar-powered garments, including a winter parka, jacket, dress, and most recently, a stylish shirt. The wearer of the T-shirt can use the power of the sun absorbed by the clothing to charge a mobile phone within two hours.

Related: Elon Musk: A Carbon Tax Is the Only Way to End World's Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Migration patterns


of all manner of rare and sometimes endangered creatures

National utilities


This week, Singapore announced that the country's commercial and industrial entities are now able to purchase solar-generated power from the national power grid in an effort to cut down on environmental emissions.

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build the world's biggest installation of floating solar panels