“With renewable energy you can do impossible things.” This is what Dr. Bertrand Piccard said, a renewable energy activist and the first person to fly a hot air balloon around the world. With this statement, Dr. Piccard was referring to his most recent achievement; the creation of a solar-powered plane, which recently took flight over Switzerland and stayed aloft for more than 26 hours, reaching an altitude of 28,000 feet and setting a world record for a solar-powered craft.
The plane, The Solar Impulse, used zero fuel during the duration of the flight, produced no pollution, and consumed all of its energy naturally through the sun. Although these types of solar-powered crafts require significant development before we can even discuss an overhaul of commercial jets, it seems clear that it can and likely will happen at some point in the future. The success of this flight represents a huge stride for the clean technology industry and has made many non-believers of renewable energy considerably less skeptical.
As a public relations professional, after my first reaction of “how cool is that!”, came a second reaction of wanting to know the type and amount of coverage a renewable energy announcement of this magnitude received. After a closer look, I saw that the story did receive a good amount of media attention including stories in USA Today, The New York Times and NPR, among other top tier media outlets. Furthermore, I didn't come across a single article that told the story in a negative way, which given the number of renewable energy skeptics, I was somewhat surprised. Some stories could have focused on the fact that the plane only averaged about 26 miles per hour, or that the cock pit reached a frigid -4 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there no were stories of this kind; just positive, praising and optimistic stories.
I find it very encouraging that this piece of news received so much media attention. However keeping that in mind, I also think it’s important that the media relay stories to the public of smaller, perhaps less significant feats and accomplishments relating to renewable energy. In the overall scheme of things, any renewable energy accomplishment, big or small, helps propel the industry forward, and this is something the public should be aware of each and every time it happens.
Nevertheless, The Solar Impulse, is certainly a huge triumph and should be treated as so. In my opinion, it represents a big step forward in the overall struggle to convert skeptics and show that renewable energy is our future. Through renewable energy, environmental sustainability can and will be achieved and allow us to do those impossible things.
-Contributed by Jessica Boardman. Follow her @jboards