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What Do Solar Airplanes and Solar Elevators Have in Common?

July 9, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

solar impulseThe solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse completed its cross-country flight across the US Sunday, and now engineers may use some lessons learned to improve solar elevators.

Solar Impulse flew from the West to the East Coast without a single drop of traditional fuel. The journey showed that reducing weight is a major factor in solar energy efficiency, both for airplanes as well as elevators, according to the head of Schindler Elevator.

Schindler had engineers embedded in the Solar Impulse project both to contribute knowledge about renewable technology and also to draw lessons that can be used to make elevator and escalator operations more energy efficient, said Frank Resch, head of research and development at Schindler Elevator, on the Platts Energy Week TV show. Resch said his engineers are learning about the solar cells used in the Solar Impulse airplane, the power management systems, including the batteries, and the lightweight construction.

Schindler has one solar-powered elevator operating in Barcelona, Spain, that draws about 60 percent of the energy it needs from renewable sources. The system includes solar panels on the roof of the building, an energy storage system and a power manager that determines whether to use energy stores in batteries from the solar cells or draw power from the local utility grid. The system, which is currently designed to be used in about a 10-story building, will go on wider sale in Europe in 2014 with a later expansion planned for the US market.



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