"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

Monday, July 5, 2010

Solar Aircraft- An Expensive Boy's Toy!

The New York Times has lauded a new solar aero-plane at prototype stage in Europe saying:
Aircraft like the Solar Impulse are on the cutting edge of technologies aimed at curbing the amount of greenhouse gases that come from flying.
 Although a pretty toy the Solar Impulse is basically a powered glider with the lawn-mower size engine usually used replaced by a bank of solar panels and electric motor. This type of design has as much commercial application as a chocolate tea-pot but will have greenies all over the world wetting themselves at the prospect of solar powered flight. Putting it in perspective a solar panel can develop up to a maximum of 100 watts per square meter - a commercial 747 uses 140 million watts in normal flight .A solar panel area of 1Km by 1.4 Km would develop that power at midday with the sun directly over-head which would present a few minor aircraft design problems that even the NYT should be able to understand!

The Solar Impulse, whose sponsors include Deutsche Bank, is not the only solar-powered aircraft. The project is just one of many seeking a radical breakthrough to reduce the effect of aviation on the environment.

There is no breakthrough possible in this direction and even a preliminary engineering evaluation would show that.
Among the major airlines, there have been remarkable advances in biofuels aimed at reducing the footprint of commercial aviation drastically. But those experiments are at an early stage.

Biofuels have become something of a dirty word among thinking environmentalists because the policy of putting food into fuel-tanks causes starvation in Third world countries and they don't reduce the carbon footprint anyway- they just make the green chatterati feel good !
However the EU has found an answer to the problem of airline greenhouse gas emission - A Great Big New Tax which will of course need a gaggle of over-paid bureaucrats to administer it.
So instead of relying on a technological leap forward that still may be years or even decades away, the European Union is embarking on another way of lowering the emissions from flying: making airlines join its five-year-old Emissions Trading System.

Most commercial aircraft that land in E.U. countries or take off from one of its airports are expected to have to start trading under that system in 2012, paying for permits for some pollution.
This of course will work very well because all the bureaucrats will still fly, Government-paid,around the world for gabfests telling us how to reduce our emissions and the wealthy and the Hollywood glamorous unintelligentsia won't even notice the tax . John Citizen who wants to take his family for a well-earned holiday will be the bunny and will have to pay out of his own pocket.

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