Recent news about the Solar Impulse and its successful landing journey to Hawaii have many renewable energy champions singing the praises of solar flight, even after learning the plane will have to remain in Hawaii until 2016 while overheated batteries are replaced.
I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with John Perlin, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the few individuals who can trace the remarkable history of solar flight over the decades.
Mr. Perlin author of the book about long history of solar power’s long history, “Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy,” was present at many of these pioneering endeavors (manned and unmanned) and met pioneers like Paul MacCready (Impulse) and Robert Bosch (Bosch Solar Energy).
MacCready’s Gossamer Condor made history in 1977 when it flew a figure-eight course over a distance of 1.15 miles and became the first human-powered vehicle to achieve sustained, maneuverable flight.
For those missing info on this miniseries, here are previously published episodes:
- Author John Perlin Celebrates the Coming Year of Light
- Author John Perlin & the Solar Cell
- The Pathway to Today’s Solar Revolution: Discovering the Photosensitivity of Selenium
- Photovoltaics Discovered in 1875: Interview with Author John Perlin
- Photovoltaic Dreaming: First Attempts at Commercializing PV
- Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics Part 1
- Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics – Part 2
- John Perlin Miniseries #8: Photovoltaics: Saved by Silicon – Part 1
- Photovoltaics Miniseries #9: Saved by Silicon – Part 2
- Photovoltaics Miniseries #10: World’s First Practical Solar Cell Victim to Exigencies of Cold War
- Photovoltaics Miniseries #11: Nixon’s Solargate
- Photovoltaics Miniseries #12: Jimmy Carter’s War Against PV
- John Perlin’s Photovoltaics Miniseries #13: Reagan Nukes Solar
- John Perlin PV Miniseries #14: How Public Policy Matters
A physicist and teacher, Perlin has long been a proponent or solar energy. This series on solar flight seems like a perfect fit.
He wrote to me recalling his first encounter with the dreamers who believed in the idea of solar flight: “Sixteen years ago I headed out to Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert to cover the launch of the solar-powered aircraft, the Helios. The night of my arrival I went to a party celebrating next day’s launch. There I heard talk of a man – Paul MacCready – who realized in the late 1970s da Vinci’s dream of human-powered light. They also spoke of his Pterodactyl – a remote-controlled reconstruction of that ancient huge flying reptile soaring over the Mojave in the mid-1980s. And tomorrow we would see if his solar-powered winged aircraft would fly.”
I look forward to providing this report.