Clean and profitable solutions from the shores of Lake Geneva

Following the success of his first solar flight around the world, Bertrand Piccard set himself a new goal: 1000 clean and profitable solutions to preserve the earth. (Credit: Keystone)

Every week, the Solar Impulse Foundation, based in Lausanne, receives an average of 10 to 15 proposals for climate-friendly business initiatives competing to be among the 1,000 chosen to bear the new Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label. Among them, some 61 clean and efficient Swiss ideas have won the right to display the label developed by psychiatrist and solar flight explorer Bertrand Piccard. The initiative aims to identify 1000 innovations that can protect the environment in a profitable way and enable decision-makers to fast-track implementation.

Why is this important ? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is likely to exceed the milestone of 1.5°C sometime between 2030 and 2052 — leading to a spiraling cascade of impacts on health, livelihoods, food security, water, and social stability. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C in line with the aspiration of the 2015 Paris Agreement requires rapid action. Following the success of his first solar flight around the world, Piccard set himself a new goal, this time on earth: fast-tracking the implementation of clean and profitable solutions by decision-makers. The Foundation’s new Label assesses the economic profitability of solutions that protect the environment. In its first two years, it has already awarded the label to some 600 new technologies and innovations. Piccard:

“Each time I speak of protecting the Environment to heads of state or government officials, they tell me that it is too expensive. This Label is a strong message to them: solutions exist and represent the biggest market opportunity of our century… Let’s replace old polluting devices with modern clean technologies. Economic growth will only come from solutions that can save energy and protect the environment. It is possible today to bridge ecology and economy.”

Innovators from fifty countries have supplied the 600 solutions that have won the label so far. They cover five key areas: clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; Industry, innovation and infrastructure; responsible consumption and production; and sustainable cities and communities (note cities consume about 63% of global primary energy and emit 70% of the world’s greenhouse gases).

Swiss examples. Switzerland has already come up with 61 labelled solutions. They include:

  • Automated food waste manager: Kitro, a Swiss start-up based in Renens, provides restaurants with a fully automated solution to monitor their waste: to help them save food while reducing their environmental footprint. An electronic box attached to the wall above the waste bin and a scale captures the time, weight, and an image of everything thrown into the trash. It is then sent to a software system that automatically tracks the food waste portion of trash thrown into the waste bin. By putting numbers behind the food waste, users know the sources and can act effectively to reduce their food waste.

  • Mobile aeroponics farming: An automated irrigation cultivation system created by CombaGroup, a startup founded in 2012 in Molondin. The technology optimizes aeroponics, the culture of plants in air or mist environments. The mobile aeroponics irrigation system uses 30 times less water than traditional field farming thanks to the automatic spraying system and a closed-loop water circuit. It avoids the use of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. By being strategically located near distribution and consumer centers, aeroponics sharply reduces the carbon footprint of vegetables produced, while increasing yields fourfold above current methods.

  • Electric Propulsion System: H 55, based in Sion, aims to accelerate the green transformation of the aviation industry by making flights quieter, cleaner, and more affordable. Its electric-powered engines replace traditional fossil fuel models while optimizing the use of battery storage technologies. Its EPS55 electric propulsion system, to become commercially available by the end of 2021, will be cost-effective for small aircraft, reducing operating costs from CHF 171-235 per flight hour to 6.76 CHF. It is being marketed first as a power source for trainer aircraft, and in a second phase, the broader market.

    Studer solar hybrid mini-grid system (Studer)

1000 sustainable solutions on the way. At the request of French President François Hollande in December 2015, Bertrand Piccard prepared seven principles to accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral and sustainable economy. The decision to award the Label to competitors follows a rigorous assessment based on these principles using evidence-based methodologies. The solutions are tested by external independent experts. In July, sixteen new solutions were granted the Solar Impulse Foundation Label, among those, a Swiss solution for green electrification of remote areas, by Studer Innotec, based in Sion. The Studer solar hybrid power systems can retrofit a traditional diesel generation unit, reducing emissions by 50% while guaranteeing a stable power supply. Piccard:

“Today, thousands of solutions exist that can boost economic growth while preserving nature, but they are often hidden in startups or research labs. They remain unknown to decision makers and are not implemented at industry level. So few people realize that everyone can use them and how profitable they have become. We aim to select 1000 clean and efficient solutions with a label proving their profitability. Imagine the impact that this will have on the world!”