Solaris is an energy-rich tobacco plant soon to be harvested by South African Airlines — looking to provide a new, greener, biofuel for their fleet.
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While air travel is usually regarded as a symbol of mankind’s great achievements, the carbon footprint those planes produce has, to date, left a serious taint on that accomplishment. What many wouldn’t have expected, however, is for another of modern society’s “vices” to arrive on the scene as a solution to the problem.
Solaris is an energy-rich, nicotine-free, GMO-free tobacco plant developed by Italy’s Sunchem Holding — the first South African crop of which is soon to be harvested, before oil is extracted from the plant’s seed. It will then fall on South African Airways (SAA) and aeroplane manufacturer Boeing to trial the resultant biofuel under their new Project Solaris.
Over 50 hectares of the Solaris seeds have already been planted as part of SAA’s plans to increase its use of biofuels to 20 million liters by 2017, with an aim of 400-million liters by 2023. As well as benefiting the environment — Solaris biofuel can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by 50 percent to 75 percent — the project will also reduce fuel costs for SAA, which makes up approximately 40 percent of the airline’s total operating costs.
How else could air travel clean up its act for a greener tomorrow?