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Solar Impulse backers vow to see project ‘to the end’

ABU DHABI // Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the Solar Impulse project and one of the pilots of Solar Impulse 2, the world’s first totally solar-powered aircraft, is looking to his staunchest supporters for funds to continue his journey around the world.

Mr Piccard returned to Switzerland looking for €20 million (Dh80m) to repair the damage caused to Solar Impulse 2 as it flew to Hawaii.

As the world’s first solar energy plane attempting to circumnavigate the Earth remains grounded in Hawaii, Mr Piccard said that the funds would help the mission to go forward. Although not committing to specific amounts, the project’s main sponsors have rallied to their side.

Florian Meier, the communications manager at Schindler, one of Solar Impulse’s supporters, said that they would continue to support the project, which has inspired millions.

“We will work closely with Solar Impulse and all the other partners to find a good solution. With the around-the-world flight so far, Solar Impulse has inspired millions of people with its pioneering spirit and has encouraged the adoption of clean technologies, renewable energy and energy efficiencies,” said Mr Meier.

They said that their partnership would continue “until the end of the around-the-world flight”, but that it was too early to make a statement on the costs over and above what was originally agreed upon.

Aside from simply sponsoring Solar Impulse, Schindler has employees invested in the project itself, and said that the setbacks effected them as much as anyone else.

“As a main partner of Solar Impulse, Schindler shares the disappointment of the Solar Impulse team. But setbacks are often part of bold innovations,” he said.

“It’s the cost of pushing limits to make great things happen.”

Others have also voiced their support.

“We don’t disclose financial details of our partnership with Solar Impulse. ABB is very proud of its innovation and technology alliance with Solar Impulse, and we look forward to continuing the round-the-world journey with the Solar Impulse team through next year,” said a representative of ABB, one of the project’s main sponsors.

ABB said that it was looking “forward to continuing the round-the-world journey with the Solar Impulse team through 2016”.

“The fact that Solar Impulse is now facing this delay demonstrates just how difficult it is.

“We are confident that the mission will be completed next year and we are proud to have been part of it,” they said. The spokesman said that setbacks were to be expected in a project such as this and that they would do their best to push forward.

“Solar Impulse 2 is on a pioneering mission that is stretching the boundaries of technology and human endurance.

“When you embark on a mission of that nature, you have to expect there will be challenges and setbacks.”

As for Solvay, they said that they were still committed to the cause but that they had yet to disclose details.

“At this stage, what we can say is that Solvay and all its employees are fully committed to support Solar Impulse.

“ We are in close discussions with the Solar Impulse teams every day regarding the next steps,” said Lamia Narcisse, head of media relations of Solvay Group.

As for local sponsor Masdar, chief executive Dr Ahmed Belhoul said that overcoming challenges was part of the journey.

“Like all renowned scientific explorations into new frontiers, overcoming challenges and adversity is part of the journey.

“Solar Impulse is no different, and the challenges they are facing are a reflection of the magnitude and difficulty of their mission,” Dr Belhoul said.

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(via The National)