Engineering Basket Case: $250 Million Solar Impulse 2 Becomes Symbol Of “Green Delusionism”

Tony Thomas at The Spectator here has written an excellent summary on the Solar Impulse 2 plane and how the attempted journey around the world has gone so far. I’ve written on this before here, here and here.

If anything the $250 million dollar project has turned into nothing less than an engineering basket case, run by two men who seem to be in midlife crisis. How many simple schools could be built in Africa with that kind of money?

The Airbus A380 dimensioned solar-powered contraption has been grounded in Hawaii, some 10 months after it began its trip in Abu Dhabi last March. Notable comments by Thomas in the Spectator article:

The fuel-free plane was meant to show the delicious potential of clean solar energy, ‘therapy for the planet’ and a climate-change stopper, […]. The solar plane’s actually demonstrated the superiority of a few drums of avgas.”


It was held up at Nagoya for a month waiting for favorable winds, much like a 17th century galleon.


Piccard says, ‘What we have here is the future’.

That would be progress going backwards in high gear. Thomas reminds us early devices did the trip far more quickly: “The Graf Zeppelin in 21 days in 1929“, and “Someone could walk the plane’s route (somehow) in two years, not much longer than the flight time.”

Of course pilot and project pitchman Piccard does not see it that way, and promotes the months-long grounded plane as breakthrough technology:

If there ever was a symbol of green delusionism, Solar Impulse 2 is it.


28 responses to “Engineering Basket Case: $250 Million Solar Impulse 2 Becomes Symbol Of “Green Delusionism””

  1. DirkH

    Well technology always has its hickups.

    Like the US’s dirigible aircraft carrier program.

  2. roger

    Let that be a lesson to all those who have solar impulses.
    At the first sign of the affliction, sit in a darkened room until the impulse passes.
    You know it makes sense.
    Wind afflictions also respond well to this strategy, the passing of the impulse affording great relief!

    1. DirkH

      I ate so much beans I need a wind turbine in my room!

      1. yonason

        I don’t know if you were angling for this, but I’ll bite anyway. When I was in the Navy, there was a fellow who used his cigarette lighter to ignite the gas he passed, until one day he burned himself due to an excess of gas. Cutting to the chase, you have wind and gas. It’s a two-fer. 🙂

        1. DirkH


  3. kim

    Are we sure the wax didn’t just melt?

  4. Stephen Richards

    Picard is french origin and the french believe the AGW hype like it’s their latest god. Picard is quoted as saying, and I’ve heard him several times “we need good clean technology for our future “

    1. DirkH

      I was at a solar company near Lyon for a few days in 2010. Lyon has a beautiful city centre! The thuna was great! The French were nice but crazy as always!

    2. Graeme No.3

      Stephen R,

      in french was it good technology that is clean, or clean technology is good?

      1. Papy Boomer

        In French from Québec, none of the above. We simply say “we need [another] technology” because it’s not good or clean, and it is not for the future. Hahaha!

  5. lemiere jacques

    it is the plane of the future…it will land in the future…

  6. Keith Willshaw

    If this is the future we have gone backwards since the 19th century, in that era clipper ships running under sail could make a return trip from the UK to Australia in under 6 months. In December 1883 Cutty Sark set sail from Newcastle NSW carrying 4300 bales of wool and 12 casks of tallow arriving in the UK 83 days later.

  7. Steve C

    The worst is yet to come, from their POV. They’ve started this now. We’re all watching. They can’t back out.

    So at some point, they must choose between (a) limp home, after an embarrassingly long time, and (b) abandon the attempt altogether.

    And then …

    And then they’re going to have to Be Enthusiastic about solar “power” without looking like complete prats. 😀

    1. Graeme No.3

      The last part they can leave to ‘sod’. He doesn’t mind appearing a complete…in fact I am surprised we haven’t heard from him already.

  8. Engineering Basket Case: $250 Million Solar Impulse 2 Becomes Symbol Of “Green Delusionism” – sentinelblog

    […] No Tricks Zone, by P […]

  9. yonason

    “How many simple schools could be built in Africa with that kind of money?” – P.G.

    What? No fame? No eco-hero worship?

  10. sunsettommy

    The true failure is that the plane is ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT with negligible payload capability,which makes it worthless from the start.

    Winds must be favorable for it to fly long,which make it very unreliable even for publicity stunt.

    1. sod

      “The true failure is that the plane is ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT with negligible payload capability,which makes it worthless from the start.”

      Sorry, but i simply think most people posting here have not understood the project.

      A solar plane can stay in the air forever. This is not about cargo transport.

      1. DirkH

        “A solar plane can stay in the air forever. ”

        So why doesn’t it, Mr. smartypants.

        “This is not about cargo transport.”

        Well how about we leave that to the evil Kerosene-burning planes. After all, warmunists need their fresh organic Papaya smoothies. So their brains are charged up for the next hard workday at the Global Central Planning office. Central planning is hard on the brain.

        1. yonason

          Sod is correct, their flight of fantasy remains aloft, unperturbed by the downdrafts of reality.

      2. David Johnson

        A plane that stays in the air forever is no use to anyone

  11. DirkH

    I’m in Munich and it’s covered by the Thing Of The Past. Looks nice.

    1. yonason

      Enjoy it while it lasts, because Munich is targeted to become yet “greener” than it already is.

      Queue now forming (if not, then it should be) for MEGA class action suit? It’s shaping up to be a looooooong one.

  12. yonason

    Bike power is another e.g., of Back to the Future technology.

    I’ll bet the Wright brothers would have been GREEN with envy. “Why didn’t WE think of that? D’OH!”

    But seriously, they all mean well. Don’t they?

    For me the take home lesson is, “just because you can build it, doesn’t mean you should.”

  13. Sean

    Stuck in Hawaii 10 months spending someone else’s money to stay there… these guys are smarter than you think.

  14. Colorado Wellington

    “If there ever was a symbol of green delusionism …”

    We should listen to sod’s objections. He’s the expert. He must know other green energy projects that are way more deluded.

  15. sod

    Solar power is moving fast and is winning energy contracts in India at incredibly low prices:

    There are technology improvements, which is the thing that a project like solar impulse is all about. For example inverters are changing big time:

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