Solar Technology’s Glaring Inferiority …Phileas Fogg’s 19th Century Balloon Beats 21st Century Solar Impulse 2 By Over 300 Days!

A couple of readers have brought up the latest on the Solar Impulse 2 project, the solar-powered plane designed by a couple of Europeans to showcase the “unlimited” potential of solar energy in a “solo flight” around the world. Here’s the latest news.


The Solar Impulse 2 plane was launched from Abu Dhabi, amid much media fanfare, on March 9 this year. Today, almost 200 days later involving 8 legs, it is now stuck in Hawaii and it is not going anywhere. So much for the dream.

It turns out that instead of bringing attention to the technology’s potential, the project has only brightly highlighted solar energy’s shortcomings and the technology’s glaring inferiority. Indeed the plane needs the dimensions of a jumbo jet – just to carry the payload of a car.

Today, some six months later (almost 200 days), we see the solar contraption has yet to even reach the halfway point of it’s planned around the world journey. The plane and its pilots are firmly grounded in Hawaii due to an array of technical problems. In comparison a fossil-fueled jetliner would have completed the trip hundreds of times by now, and that while carrying a payload hundreds of times greater.

Greenhouse gas nightmare

I blogged on Solar Impulse 2 earlier here. We saw that the endeavor had been everything but successful – even at that point – and that it was in fact a greenhouse gas nightmare.

To put the project’s performance in some perspective, let us recall how Jules Verne’s fictional characters Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout were able to complete their trip around the world in just 80 days – and that in a balloon back in the 19th century! Today we find ourselves in the 21st century and now around-the-world trips with the “latest pioneering technology” are taking some 500 days. Don’t you just love progress? Passepartout’s and Fogg’s balloon would have long since arrived by now.

Conceivably one almost could make the trip more quickly by foot, over land, and sailboat over sea.

This so-called “pioneering solo flight” in reality involved the burning of tens of thousands of liters of fossil fuels because an entire support crew had to be flown along in a fossil fuel powered jet. The fixed-wing Solar Impulse 2 departed Abu Dhabi on March 9 and was planned to continue to India, China, Hawaii, Phoenix, New York, Morocco before finally coming full circle back to Abu Dhabi – sometime in August, 2015 – and “without emitting any climate gases”.

Wikipedia has since revised the clean plane’s timetable. Now the trip should be completed next year.

During the summer it was reported by a handful of media outlets that the plane had been forced to land in Hawaii because of “irreversible damage” to its lithium ion battery system. Getting the replacements parts for the plane would take months and so the plane would be grounded for 9 months, according to reports.

Not enough sun to power the aircraft

This is not the first setback for the Impulse 2. It has since become obvious that the technology is woefully unfit to handle poor weather conditions. Back in May the pilots had to detour to Japan due to bad weather conditions from a cold front. And now that summer is over, there is not going to be enough sunshine in the northern hemisphere to keep the solar-powered plane flying. The result: an extended months-long stay in Hawaii. So tough can failure be.

The pilots now say they will try to complete the remainder of the trip – sometime later in 2016…very likely well over 500 days after their departure. The latest target. we suppose, is to arrive less than one year late.

How will the team look back and rate the project once it ends? They could take the approach once proposed by one US senator on the Vietnam War debacle: “We should declare victory and get the hell out.” Expect nothing less.


36 responses to “Solar Technology’s Glaring Inferiority …Phileas Fogg’s 19th Century Balloon Beats 21st Century Solar Impulse 2 By Over 300 Days!”

  1. Bernd Felsche

    The media could announce it as

    Grounded by Solar Activity


  2. sod

    “, let us recall how Jules Verne’s fictional characters Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout were able to complete their trip around the world in just 80 days – and that in a balloon back in the 19th century!”

    sorry, but i fear you got a wrong information about the book.

    The journey was done by rail and (steam) boat. The balloon was only added for the films and is actually dismissed in the book:

    “Although a journey by balloon has become one of the images most strongly associated with the story, this iconic symbol was never deployed by Verne – the idea is briefly brought up in chapter 32, but dismissed, it “would have been highly risky and, in any case, impossible.” ”

    There have been balloon flights around the globe (and rather fast ones, by the way!):

    But these were based on fuel (propane) and, being driven by “unrelyable” wind, they tend to end in places far from where they started (egypt, instead of swiss alps, for example). .

    So the comparison has multiple big problems.

  3. sod

    “I guess that’s only the case in balloon travel, and not wind energy. ”

    a single wind turbine obviously does not provide power around the clock. But combinations of different sources (spread out wind, spread out PV solar, other solar, water power and biofuels can obviously reliably support a rather high percentage of a country. The UK just reached 25% over a quater of a year, beating coal.

    For a journey based on wind power, it turns out to be a problem, that you do not only depend on wind power but also on direction (tough luck, when you have to get back to your starting position, as Mr. Fogg has to do!).

    Batteries, water storage and much better interconnections between countries will make 50+% renewable power easy over the next two decades.

    1. John

      “an obviously reliably support a rather high percentage of a country.”

      Germany 2014:

      A country needs 24/7 100$ reliable energy, not every now and then.
      Wind energy is a BIG FAIL!

      1. sod

        “A country needs 24/7 100$ reliable energy, not every now and then.”

        The German grid is the most reliable in the world and the numbers are getting BETTER, not worse. and that is with alternative power approaching 30%.

        1. Stephen Richards

          Check your facts. The german grid is currently the most UNRELIABLE in the world. Stabilisation interventions are occuring tens of times a day. Your a fool. Get out and check before spouting.

          Look at the feeds between France, germany, UK, poland etc you will see that germany is desabilising the whole of europe because of it’s unpredictable power grid.

        2. Moose

          Yes, backed up by gas and coal power plants, thank you very much.
          And 50000 interventions last May.

          Their windparks are runnning at a wopping 14,8 % from their rated capacity.

          Big FAIL!

          But hey, the landscape is devastated!

    2. David Johnson

      Yes you buffoon, UK windpower reached 25% for a few seconds on one day. You really take the biscuit with the pathetic rubbish you spout. So on how many days did our few remaining coal plants beat the thousands of wind turbines?

      1. sod

        “Yes you buffoon, UK windpower reached 25% for a few seconds on one day.”

        please read the article. alternative power was providing 25% of electricity over 3 months.

        It did beat coal over those full 3 months, looking at total output.

        The numbers will be keep growing. In most countries, alterantive powers together will beat all other sources rather soon.

        1. Stephen Richards

          It beat coal because they are shutting coal powered stations. Eventually it will beat coal because there will not be any coal fired stations. Then you will see, or not see, everyday power cuts.

          Solar and wind are useless without storage and storage on the scale required will be extremely difficult and dangerous.

          1. The Indomitable Snowman, Ph.D.

            Fortunately, anyone can just go look at the data:


            Just put that in a browser tab and check in occasionally. The monumental uselessness of “wind” becomes quickly evident to anyone with a functioning mind (as opposed to the religious beliefs found in greenie self-propaganda).

        2. lemiere jacques

          may be one day, but well burning biomass and hydro that s no renewable revolution to me

        3. mwhite

          Unfortunately the UK is sat in the middle of a ridge of high pressure at the moment(wind currently 3.2%)

          Fortunately it’s not the middle of winter.

        4. Keith Willshaw

          That would be quite a trick if true but unfortunately the reality is somewhat different.

          The period involved was a rare period of sustained wind in the middle of summer when the underlying load is at a minimum. Over that period the total power generated was indeed around 25% of the total but of course it didn’t generate that 25% ALL of the time. This meant that even during ideal wind conditions power fluctuated through the day between 1 and 10 GW.

          As a result that required coal and gas powered plant have to be up and running, using fossil fuels, to pick up load at short notice. The wind generators get paid a premium price while the conventional plant runs at a loss when this happens. That’s why conventional plant is being closed. Note that right now the installed 13 GW wind capacity is producing only 1.44 GW with solar output being negligible. 95% of our power is coming from Coal, Nuclear and Gas.

  4. DirkH

    Warmunist cult leader / government scientist is a highly profitable occupation:
    ” George Mason University Professor Jagadish Shukla a Lead Author with the UN IPCC, reportedly made lavish profits off the global warming industry while accusing climate skeptics of deceiving the public. Shukla is leader of 20 scientists who are demanding RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges be used against skeptics for disagreeing with their view on climate change.

    Shukla reportedly moved his government grants through a ‘non-profit’. The group “pays Shukla and wife Anne $500,000 per year for part-time work,” Prof. Roger Pielke Jr. revealed. “The $350,000-$400,000 per year paid leader of the RICO 20 from his ‘non-profit’ was presumably on top of his $250,000 per year academic salary,” Pielke wrote. “That totals to $750,000 per year to the leader of the RICO 20 from public money for climate work and going after skeptics. Good work if you can get it,” Pielke Jr. added.
    Maybe I should join it. I can write stupid computer programs so I’m qualified.
    While the looting is good.

  5. Martin

    80 days my foot. At 30 meters per second, its only one – two weeks.
    (Of course, in the 19th century Verne couldn’t have known this.)

  6. John F. Hultquist

    I guess sod did not notice the use of wood chips as a replacement for coal.

    I thought most of the forests of the UK were cut long ago. About Robin Hood’s time or so. Did those forests regrow or might there be another source?

    1. Stephen Richards

      Yes John, they are cutting down the forest of the USA to feed the drax power station. It now produces more CO² than it did with coal.

  7. Arsten

    Back when this started, I commented similarly to the original post to someone. “This is a nonsense publicity stunt. They have a fossil fuel powered resource providing backup – much like we need for electricity.”

    It dropped off the media radar pretty dang quick, just like that English guy who was going to live on a melting ice berg to show the dangers we all face – who’s life was going to be powered by solar!…..and ignore the diesel generator and plastics he was using to survive. I think he ended up lasting two weeks or so on the ice berg, got splashed into the water and had to call for rescue. The last story I remember on that one was “He’s going to try it again, next year!”

    So, I am sorry Pierre – but you are wrong. Solar technology is glaringly superior to any other form of comedy. 🙂

  8. Manfred

    Gives new meaning to crew lay-overs doesn’t it? Those Greenies will be doing their heads in with cognitive dissonance as they fight for crew placement simply to be stranded in some island idyll of sunshine and sand. Are they still being paid for their pleasure? Isn’t that against one of their draft edicts in the UN 2015-post development Agenda of puritanical new-age misery?

  9. Robin Guenier

    An extract from a report of the Solar Impulse landing in Myanmar (

    “Two other aircraft — an ATR 72 and Ilyushin 76 — were carrying equipment for the solar plane and a 70 support staff, said Soe Paing, a member of the plane’s local task force team. Myanmar’s government was picking up the tab for the 20,000 gallons of fuel needed for the support planes on the Mandalay leg, he said.”

    And here’s a video of an Ilyushin IL-76 taking off:

  10. Steve C

    Many thanks for the reminder, Pierre – I’d completely forgotten the thing.

    Another serious shortcoming, it seems to me, is that apparently the pilot was not accompanied by his valet, as was Phileas. Renewable Energy – not only fails to get you there, but makes you rough it. Disgraceful! 😀

    Arsten’s right. This is turning into real entertainment.

  11. Gentle Tramp

    Thanks for this well written update.

    Also interesting are the tremendous costs for this phony green PR parody. See here:

  12. Keith Willshaw

    I note with some amusement that this solar powered effort would have been considered woefully inadequate in the Victorian era. The winner of the Great Tea Race in 1866 took just 99 days to cover the 15,000 nautical miles from China to London around the Horn. The record for a modern yacht making a round the world trip is less than 46 days.

  13. sod

    Tesla has revealed the new model, range seems to be 400km.

    it is again a very save car and getting very close to real sport cars in speeding competitions.

    All technical problems have been solved, we just need to make these cars cheaper and that is what mass production will do. Watch out how electric cars will dominate the streets and electric planes will find their purpose.!

  14. sod

    And to add another solar solution, from the extremely sceptical wall street journal:

    Solar power will run Africa. This is extremely good news, as it will also keep dependence on foreign coal/oil imports low and help a prospering economy, not starved by fuel bills. Keep following the news, while Phileas Fogg is flying around in that imaginary balloon..

  15. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #199 | Watts Up With That?

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