Is Solar Powered Travel The Next Big Thing?

Jürgen Lison, Flickr

Using energy from renewable resources is always a good thing. But while adding solar panels to your own home might be an option, renewable energy is harder to depend on while you’re traveling. If we want to explore out of our immediate areas, we’re still stuck in a world of airplanes, cruise ships and cars after all. That might be changing.

While we probably won’t be seated on a solar powered plane across the Atlantic anytime soon, solar power is being put to use in creative ways that could have big meaning for the travel industry. And not just in high tech backpacks.

This summer, 55-year-old Bertrand Picard has spent much of his time flying in his solar-powered HB-SIA, a prototype plane with the same wingspan as an Airbus A340. Created in Switzerland, Picard’s Solar Impulse Project came to the United States in recent months, crossing from San Francisco to New York City in five stages. The goal is for a world circumnavigation with the next generation of the plane in 2015.

Picard’s not the only one.Earlier this spring, Li Linxiang and his wife Zhao Yafan, a retired Chinese couple, set off to travel around the world on their own solar powered electric tricycle. They plan to make it through China, Kazakhstan and the Middle East before wintering in Ethiopia, and then enter Europe in spring 2014. Covering the entire globe? That will take them about five years.

And while these examples may seem a little off the wall, solar power is nowadays becoming accessible to hotel guests around the world. From China to Maine to Australia, hotels are opting to power their operations with the help of the sun, and designers are working hard to come up with new ideas of how to put solar power to good use, in the hopes of greening the travel industry. Beyond hotels, there are plenty other examples of solar power and tourism coming together. This summer, New York City installed solar powered charging stations for cellphones and if you choose the right cruise line, you can even end up on a ship employing solar technology, like Celebrity Cruise’s Solstice.

So while your next non-stop flight to Europe might not be fueled by the sun, keep an eye out for emerging technologies, and watch as hopefully more businesses in the travel industry put solar power to good use.

Where The Hell Is Matt? Gets Zapped By Tesla Cannon

In case you’re unfamiliar with gadabout/YouTube sensation/random dancer Where the Hell is Matt?, I suggest you click here. Or, you can take the easy way out and read this synopsis: Matt Harding is that guy who made a bunch of videos of himself doing a goofy dance in front of various global landmarks, and achieved that peculiar level of fame unique to those who have gone viral.

In the video below, Matt is shown getting bombarded with 10,000 volts of electricity by a Tesla cannon. I had no idea what that is, because my editor just assigned me this post. I’m glad, because I was watching a really bad Greek film on Netflix.

Anyway, a Tesla cannon, according to Fallout Wiki, is a “shoulder-mounted directed energy weapon using technology pioneered by Nikola Tesla.” I also needed to look up who Nikola Tesla was, so don’t feel bad (maybe I should feel bad)?

Matt, we appreciate your taking one for the team in the name of travel. Next, we’d like to see you dance in front of a herd of stampeding Cape buffalo in Uganda.


Photo Of The Day: Moulin Rouge At Night

Today’s photo, by Flickr user Rob_Sanderson, is of one of the more (in)famous tourist landmarks in Paris: the Moulin Rouge. I love the long shutter exposure of Rob’s shot, which brings out the warm neon’s fiery reds, twinkling street lamplights and a whirling blur from of the club’s iconic windmill. The image gives off a feeling of wonderful nighttime energy and hijinks to come.

Taken any great travel photos? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Off the radar museum: SantralIstanbul


After over four months and eight guests, I’ve seen nearly ever museum and tourist attraction in Istanbul, at least once. At this point, I don’t need a guidebook to tell visitors the history of Hagia Sofia or what’s worth checking out in the Grand Bazaar (the “Wall Street” alley is a bright spot amongst the swag). Still I try to find something new or interesting each week and recently, my explorations took me to the north end of the Golden Horn to see SantralIstanbul. Santral is a university campus-gallery-museum-cultural complex converted from an Ottoman Empire-era power plant, with multiple cafes (including a Starbucks), a playground, concert facilities, and even a nightclub on weekends. Even after an afternoon of wandering around, I haven’t entirely wrapped my mind around the concept, but it is one of the coolest museums I’ve seen, and one I will certainly add to my itinerary for future visitors.

%Gallery-102551%Don’t miss: Along with temporary art installations and exhibitions, the showpiece of Santral is the Energy Museum. I was less than excited about at first, but as soon as I walked in, my jaw dropped and I wondered if they were really going to let me wander around freely in an old power plant (yes, they were). The Energy Museum is where all your mad scientist, vintage sci-fi, steam punk, Dharma station fantasies are realized. The lower floor is comprised of interactive exhibits common to many science museums – how a battery works, fun with magnets, electric globes, etc – as well as some fun concepts like the Reactable music (apparently the future of electronic music) room and a few dangerous-looking electricity experiments that would surely invite lawsuits in America. Walking around the exhibits gives you a sense of being in a factory-like space, but it’s not until you go up to the upper level that you get the full effect of being in a nearly 100-year-old power plant. Enormous metal engines surround you on the second level, dating from 1931 and earlier, like an industrial petting zoo. Catwalks and stairs lead up to the most fascinating room – the Control Room, pictured above – the nerve center which once produced and supplied electricity to all of Istanbul. Dials, switches, and various vintage contraptions are perfectly preserved, as if the engineers just stepped out for a tea break. A few touch-screen monitors provide some information on the turbines and machines, but it’s almost more fun to let your imagination take over the explanations and enjoy the experience. If this space were transported to the United States, it would surely have all of the cool stuff roped off, only open as a location for Lady Gaga’s next video or the latest alternative event venue. In Istanbul, it serves as a perfect period piece, the occasional photo shoot background, and probably the most fun field trip in town.

How to get there: There is a free minibus shuttle from Taksim Square outside the AKM cultural center (large, black, rather ugly building opposite the beginning of Istiklal Caddesi) every half hour but they aren’t obvious to spot, look for a Bilgi University sign in the bus window and ask if they are going to Santral. You can also take public bus 36T from Taksim or a number of buses from Eminonu to Bilgi University, but it’s easy to get lost (which I did on my way back). Save yourself some headache and if you can’t find the shuttle bus, take a taxi (with the address written down) from Taksim or Eminonu.

Photo of the Day (9-23-09)

The person riding his bike in this swirl of energy is in Basel, Switzerland navigating the city’s rush hour traffic. Photographer jrodmanjr was on his bike as well and expressed amazement that riders could navigate Basel’s rain slick pavement with such finesse.

If you’ve captured images of energy and amazement, send them our way at Gadling’s Flickr photo pool. Images of stillness capture our fancy as well.