Solar Impulse is an airplane powered only by photovoltaic cells, which flies at an average speed of 70 km/h and a maximum altitude of 8,500 m. It is an international collaborative project that endeavors to demonstrate that solar energy is a feasible option for transportation and that use of 100% clean energy will bring about progress. The project, which began in 2004, is led by Solvay, and its main partners include Omega, Schindler and Deutsche Bank.
In 2010, Solar Impulse became the first aircraft in history to fly day and night without using fossil fuels and without emitting greenhouse gases. Summer 2012 marked a test program for a round-the-world flight scheduled in 2014. The first stage of the program spanned 2,500 km, from Payerne, Switzerland, to the region of Ouarzazate, Morocco, where the largest solar thermal energy plant in the world will be constructed.
The project involves four different levels of partnership. The Solvay group contributes to the project through its chemical and plastics divisions, by providing advanced technical solutions for renewable energy, energy storage, insulating materials and lightweight materials—all which it offers through eleven products, 25 different applications and more than 6,000 parts.
To bring this initiative to citizens that are interested in sustainable development, environmental protection and social responsibility, Solar Impulse partners have launched the Supporters Program, a crowdsourcing endeavor. Anyone can support the project through different levels and financial contributions, from collecting an official team badge, for €40 per year; adopting a photovoltaic cell, which Al Gore and Paulo Coelho have done (€160 per year); getting a private visit at the project headquarters in Switzerland (€1,665 per year); or having their name printed on the plane’s fuselage (€8,330 per year). The partners have also started Angels Program, an investment program with two categories of investors.