Monthly Archives: March 2011

Solar Plane-“All that is impossible remains to be achieved.” Jules Verne

What a terrific way to prove that we, the earthlings, are capable of freeing ourselves from the dependence on oil !  Through the clean tech of  solar energy, SOLARIMPULSE has brought us not only the physical possibility of  the first manned flight over night  (lasted about 26 hours) by solar powered plane in July 2010, but also the message to educators throughout planet earth the importance of  motivating children and students the pioneering spirit and developing new ways of thinking about future, energy, environment , and online education.

Due to the overwhelming response on last week’s post on solar car, it would be fitting to bring you the report on earthling’s progress in  Solar Plane, the Swiss Solar Impulse HB-SIA, below, undertaken at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.  This project was initiated in 2003 and then promoted by Bertrand Piccard (who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop);it has grown to a multi-disciplinary team of 50 specialists from six countries and assisted by about 100 outside advisers.



Solar Plane-Swiss Solar Impulse HB-SIA, a long-range solar powered plane

Please be sure to view these three FANTASTIC clips bbelow (I could not help but share the feeling of exuberance and hope for mankind in viewing these clips….I was almost in tears….) :


Solar Impulse-Best of 2010

Solar Impulse-Best of Night Flight

The prototype HB-SIA has a non-pressurized cockpit, a similar wingspan to the Airbus A340, lithium polymer batteries under the wing, 12,000 photovoltaic cells on the upper wing surface and the horizontal stabilizer generate electricity during the day. These photovoltaic cells and horizontal stabilizer propel the plane and charge the batteries to allow night flight, theoretically enabling the single-seat plane to stay in the air indefinitely.  On July 8, 2010, HB-SIA achieved the world’s first manned 26-hour solar flight, flown by Andre Borschberg  (started on July 7, 2010, from an airfield in Payenne, Switzerland).

To top HB-SIA, the HB-SIB is planned for completion in 2011, with a pressurized cockpit (with supplemental oxygen and various environmental support to the pilot to allow a cruise altitude of 12,000 m (39,000 ft) and advanced avionics to allow for transcontinental and trans-oceanic flights, with wingspan of 80.0 m (262.5 ft), slightly wider than the 79.75 m (261.6 ft) wingspan of an Airbus A380 ( the largest passenger airliner in the world).

A round-the-world flight is in the forecast for 2012;the flight would circle the world in the northern hemisphere near the equator and five stops are planned to change pilots.  Once improved battery efficiency allows the reduced  weight, a two-seater is envisaged to make a non-stop circumnavigation.

One cannot help but sense the inevitable success of  SOLAR ENERGY….upon the horizon…

Another lesson I have learned from this project…the importance of spirit of cooperation among all earthlings….it is time to shed the barriers of nationalism in order to reach the survival of humankind/earthlings….

* 1 inch = 1/12  ft = 2.54 centimeters (or cm)= 0.0254 meter (or m)

Your comments, questions, suggestions are always welcomed either publicly (via comments below) or privately (via

Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

How Do You Measure the Power Produced by Solar Cells ?

Excellent question from more than one of our readers:  How Do You Measure the Power Produced by Solar Cells ?

To set the stage for our following two film clips, please allow me to explain what a multimeter (or multitester) is:  it is an electronic measuring instrument that combines several measurement functions (measuring voltage, current, and resistance)  in one unit.  Multimeters are available in a wide range of features, precisions,  and prices, anywhere from less than US$10 to more than US$5,000.  To find out how much the power is produced by solar cells, we need to know the voltage and current produced and the fact that power equals to the product of voltage multiplied by current.

  • voltage (unit of measurement is volt, V): electrical driving force, energy per unit charge, electrical potential difference between two points
  • current (unit of measurement is ampere, A): rate of flow of electric charge ( carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire or in an electrolyte carried by ions, or in a plasma by both)
  • resistance (unit of measurement is ohm, Ω): measure of the degree to which an object opposes an electric current through it
  • power (unit of measurement is watt, W): power is the rate at which work is performed or energy is converted.  In direct current resistive circuits, electrical power is calculated using Joule’s law. In the case of resistive (Ohmic or linear)loads, Joule’s law is combined with Ohm’s law (I=V/R)
  • such that R represents numerical value of ohm or resistance, I represents numerical value of ampere or current, V represents numerical value of volt or voltage, P represents numerical value of watt or power
  • Joule’s law: P= VI, so solar cell or solar module measured at 2V and 1A would produce power at 2W, solar cell or solar module measured at 3V and 2A would produce power at 6W, solar cell or solar module measured at 2V and 1mA would produce power at 2mW (note: mA=0.001A  or mA means milliA)
  • Joule’s law + Ohm’s law: P=(I^2)R=(V^2)/R
  • series circuit:

    Series Circuit

    the current through each of the components of the circuit is the same, voltage across the components is the sum of the voltages across each component

  • parallel circuit:

    Parallel Circuit

    the voltage across each of the components is the same and the total current is the sum of the currents through each component

  • Now you are ready to view these two clips:

    1. Multimeter Tutorial-Solar Schoolhouse

    2. Solar Panels-How To Test

  • Again, thank you for your questions and comments. Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

What Is Peak Oil?

I am glad to see that our posts last week generated some interesting questions.  One of our readers was inquiring about the terminology, Peak Oil:

Thanks, L., for asking about this very important while often confusing topic in the discussion of renewable and/or solar energy.  Peak Oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.  Peak oil is often confused with the oil depletion;peak oil is the point of maximum production while depletion refers to a period of falling reserves and supply. This concept, derived from Hubbert Curve,

A logistic (continuous probability) distribution shaped production curve, as originally suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956.

is based on observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells.  The combined production rate from an oil field over time usually grows exponentially until the rate peaks and then declines, until the field is depleted.  M. King Hubbert created and first used the models behind peak oil in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. Did you know that United States used to be one of the largest exporters of oil and now United States is one of the largest importers of oil?

More questions will be answered in the following posts.  Your comments and questions are always welcomed.  Some times it may take a while before all of the questions are addressed, so please be patient with us.

Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

The Upcoming World Solar Challenge of 2011

I simply have to share with you,

after the previous post on March 5, 2011, for

Cars of the Future-Solar Cars, some terrific moments in the history of

World Solar Challenge events at

(Read the post for March 5, 2011 on Cars of the Future-Solar Cars). Above is the winning car of World Solar Challenge of 1996.

and the  time and location of this year’s World Solar Challenge:

It is proposed that the dates of 11th World Solar Challenge® will be based on a start date of Sunday October 16th 2011. This would mean that preparation facilities will be available in Darwin from Tuesday 4th October 2011, and the awards event being on Sunday 23rd October 2011 The Challenge will cross the center of Austalia, stretching 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide.

Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

The Challenge crosses the centre of Australia – stretching 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide.

Cars of the Future-Solar Cars!

Part of the solution to energy and pollution  involves technology that combines what we have learned from the aerospace, alternative energy, automotive, and bicycle industries.  It may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but the reality of solar car races will one day bring all of us a step closer to the future, at least one solar car in each and every one garage of not only USA, but throughout the planet earth. 

The Winning Car in the 1996 World Solar Challenge. The custom made cells for the car are greater than 20% efficient.

Several consulting companies, such as Phoenix Snider Power, have started to offer technical and financial support and/or services to institutes and teams developing solar cars worldwide.  Links below will give you a peek at what some of the university students and solar enthusiasts throughout planet earth have already worked on:

Please feel free to email me at if you have any interesting clips to share or if you want to leave a comment right at this site.   We are all very excited about what the future may have in store for us.

Posted by sunisthefutre-Susan Sun Nunamaker

Why Solar?

Of all of the clean and/or renewable energy sources, my favorite is that of SOLAR . Here are the reasons:

  • It is clean!  Solar energy is the cleanest renewable/alternative energy to fossil fuels (which currently pollute our air and water, harm our health, and contribute to global warming).
  • It is much safer!  It is less likely to lead to negative environmental impacts such as that of hydro, nuclear, natural gas, or coal.
  • It is healthier! Sun is the source of life.  As long as one doesn’t look directly at the sun or be exposed to it for significant duration when  UV index is above the range of 0-1,  statistics had indicated that sufficient and right amount of  exposure to sun is actually beneficial for our health.   Insufficient  exposure to sunshine would contribute to higher incidence of breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease,  diabetes, multiple sclerosis,  tooth decay, and psoriasis, as indicated in the book The Healing Sun (Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century) (Hobday, 2004).   
  • It is readily available!  Sun has been around for a long time and no one particular group or nation has ownership to it. Therefore, the use of solar energy will be less likely to be subjected to fluctuating raw material cost or be at risk of any war among nations due to rival for this source of energy.  Last but not least, Sun will be around for a long long long time….
  • Its sense of timing!  The peak demand time for energy use usually coincides with the peak performance efficiency of sun’s energy.  Perfect!
  •  There are fewer moving parts involved in solar powered systems and therefore would operate at a lower maintenance cost.

Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker