Skip to main content

Rhone Resch Remarks on Solar Impulse Innovators-of-the-Year Award

Monday, Jun 17 2013


Good afternoon everyone.  Someone once said: “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” 

Without question, Dr. Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are living proof of that.  Today, we are here to congratulate these two great adventurers on making both solar and aviation history.

Let me begin this afternoon by thanking all of you – each and every one of you – for being part of this very special occasion. 

I would also like to extend my deep appreciation to Secretary Moniz, who has repeatedly expressed his support for renewable energy, including an expanded use of solar in America and around the world.

Mr. Secretary, we won’t disappoint you – or America – or the world.

Clearly, this is a very important moment in the history of solar energy. 

But we’re not here today to simply celebrate a solar flight across America.

Today, we’re also passengers on a flight into the future – and a flight into our own imaginations.

Millions of Americans, and millions of others from around the world, have watched and cheered as this majestic, futuristic and inspirational 208-foot-wide, carbon fibre solar plane – with the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and the weight of a Volkswagon – glided gracefully across the sky.  

From the Golden Gate Bridge…to the Gateway Arch…to the Washington Monument – Solar Impulse has traveled nearly 3,000 miles and straight into history.  

Now the next challenge is to fly around the world in 2015.

Solar Impulse is the first airplane ever to fly day and night without fuel or polluting emissions.  With its 12,000 silicon solar cells, Solar Impulse is also equipped with state-of-the-art batteries that store power, allowing it to fly around-the-clock – something which has never been done before.

And those high-efficiency silicon solar cells were designed, developed and manufactured by SEIA member SunPower, which is headquartered in San Jose, California.

But this isn’t the first time SunPower has helped aviation soar to new heights.  SunPower solar cells were also used in NASA’s Pathfinder and Helios high altitude aircraft.  In fact, Helios soared 96,863 feet above Earth – a world altitude record for a non-rocket aircraft.

So it’s only appropriate to celebrate this milestone right here – at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum – which has the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. 

And who knows, perhaps one day, Solar Impulse will be back here again – parked in one of these giant hangers to inspire our children, and their children, just as it has inspired us during this remarkable journey.

Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States – providing good paying jobs for nearly 120,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, many of them small businesses spread all across the country.  In fact, solar job growth has doubled in the past three years alone.

There is now more than 8,500 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity in the United States – enough to power more than 1.3 million American homes.

And just last week, SEIA released its first quarter market report, and the results were pretty extraordinary:

  • From January through March of this year, solar accounted for 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S.
  • The residential solar market grew by 53 percent over the same quarter in 2012.
  • The solar utility market more than doubled, year-over-year, as 24 large solar projects were completed.
  • And the average residential PV system price fell below $5/W, while the average non-residential system price fell below $4/W.

These are all reasons to celebrate.  But the best is yet to come.

We believe that prices to American consumers and U.S. businesses will continue to go down, while solar’s generating capacity – and market share – will continue to go up. 

In 2012, new U.S. solar installations were valued at nearly $12 billion, doubling in just two years.

Today, solar is a great American success story.  Many of our nation’s leading companies –such as Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, FedEx, GE, GM, IKEA, Macy’s, Target Walgreens and Walmart – are all making big investments in solar.

And the U.S. military is increasingly turning to solar energy to reduce costs and improve battlefield readiness and security.

Many of the cutting-edge technologies being used by our military have actually been adapted for use from innovative consumer products.

So today, we salute Solar Impulse and its dedicated team.  Your flight across America has inspired us, motivated us – and most importantly – reminded us that anything is possible when we look to the sky and dare to dream.

As you begin preparations for your record-breaking solar flight around the world, know that we will be cheering you on at every step of the way, while remembering the words of famed aviator Amelia Earhart:

“Never do things others can do and will do – if there are things others cannot do or will not do.”

Good luck, Bertrand and Andre.  May God be with you as you travel around planet Earth.

In spirit, we will be your co-pilots, wherever this remarkable journey takes you.


It’s now my honor and privilege to present the 2013 SEIA Innovators-of-the-Year Award to the co-pilots and co-founders of Solar Impulse – Dr. Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg.