A side step toward clean energy

Julia Krum/HIGHLANDER
Julia Krum/HIGHLANDER

It’s no bird, but it definitely is a plane and some optimistic Swiss entrepreneurs are flying it without using any fuel. Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg founded Solar Impulse and pioneered the first purely solar-powered aircraft ever. Their goal is to fly around the world without any fuel and demonstrate that green renewable energy can reliably replace fossil fuels someday.

The Swiss entrepreneurs have had a number of successes toward their goal. In fact, they have broken a few records by flying for five days and nights without landing or refueling as they’ve made their way east from Dubai to Austin, Texas (at time of writing). Though their success thus far is quite impressive, the question of what will happen next remains. The mission of the (renamed) Solar Impulse II Aircraft is to fly around the world and inspire the world to convert to green energy sources in the future, but what happens when the flight is over?

Unfortunately, there is a lot to be desired in the form of actual plans to make change. The Solar Impulse website says “Clean technologies used on the solar aircraft could be used on the ground and reduce 50% of our world’s energy consumption … But for this, we need political courage and pioneering spirit.” This statement is trying to promote a sense of change that has actually happened. However, it is completely unreliable and yields no specific evidence for real-life applications.

Solar Impulse has garnered substantial international support from green energy companies and others all across the globe. A few big names helping to fund the project include Google, General Electric, Ikea and the UN Environmental Program. Solar Impulse also launched a movement via hashtag “the #futureisclean initiative to create a federation of organizations pushing the replacement of old polluting devices by existing clean technologies.” But unfortunately it seems that Solar Impulse is relying on others to implement green technologies and fund advancement away from fossil fuels following their global flight.

I want to be clear that I wholeheartedly support every aspect of what Solar Impulse is striving to achieve. I hope as much as Piccard and Borschberg that we can all successfully shift to clean renewable energy and protect our planet, but there clearly is more work to be done.

The top five major solutions that Solar Impulse and its supporters managed to come up with are not solid. According to the website, using the most efficient devices, promoting renewable energy sources, not asking people to sacrifice their lifestyles, pushing the transition to renewable energy sources and education, are all they could come up with! It is downright frightening that 357 wealthy corporations and thousands of people couldn’t come up with anything better than hollow shells of goals that people could support with a hashtag and sleep soundly at night.

If fossil fuels are completely replaced in the very near future, and they should be, then green energy technology needs to make significant advancements in order to succeed. One helpful step to begin with would be for mandatory federal funding to be diverted from our insanely massive military budget, and instead go toward green energy technology and research. The green technologies we possess today would only do so much, which is why law should require further advancement by corporations. People would probably need to sacrifice some luxuries for a few years to go completely green too, and in our present society, that may be an impossible request. Being proactive rather than reactive is crucial when it comes to our environment, but it’s understandable how all of this is easier said than done.

Switching to renewable energy is something we all need to seriously consider, if we want to protect the future of the planet that is our magnificent home. Solar Impulse is doing a fine job proving the effectiveness of renewable energy, but now it’s time to take the next step and really implement efficiently clean technology.

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