Google’s made all kinds of headlines with its investments in clean energy recently: $280 million for a California residential solar company, $55 million for a wind project in Kern County, more than $10 million for geothermal R&D projects, and $168 million for a massive solar farm in the California desert, just to name a few.

Photo: Cafe Foundation
A new move by the company seeks to address another kind of energy challenge: airplane fuel. The company has teamed up with NASA to sponsor the Green Flight Challenge, a competition to develop emissions-free aircraft.

The challenge? Build a plane that can fly at least 100 miles per hour and achieve the equivalent energy efficiency of 200 miles per gallon of fuel on a 200-mile flight.

Thirteen teams will be competing for $1.65 million in prizes, funded by NASA, including a $1.3 million grand prize. The competition will be held between September 25 and October 2 at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, and is being organized by the CAFE Foundation, a non-profit devoted to aviation technology.

From the CAFE Foundation press release:

The electric aircraft in the competition will demonstrate for the first time that practical, emission-free cross-country flight is possible. Their batteries will be recharged using clean geo-thermal based electricity from The Geysers geo-thermal fields in the Mayacama Mountains North of Santa Rosa. This recharging will occur at the CAFE Flight Test Center’s first-ever Electric Aircraft Charging Station sponsored by Google.

The public will have a chance to check out all of the competing aircraft at Moffett Field–NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View on October 3, 2011.

Airplanes account for about three percent of the United States’ total greenhouse emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, greenhouse gas emissions from domestic aircraft are expected to increase 60 percent by 2025 and worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from aircraft engines will more than triple by mid-century.

Gretchen Weber is the Multimedia Producer of Climate Watch.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor