Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are about to break a record by completing the first tour around the world in a solar airplane; Solar Impulse 2. Weighting 2.3 tons and measuring 72 meters in width, this highly technological vehicle is covered by 17’000 photovoltaic cells. The energy accumulated by the cells during the day recharges lithium batteries which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have a virtually unlimited autonomy. The project’s mission can be easily summarized: to prove that a pioneer spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world.
In the meantime, the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) has just inaugurated the largest Swiss solar park, a project which started in 2009. 9’000 solar panels were installed on 25 buildings, covering a total surface of 15’500 square meters. The park provides 2.2 millions KWh per year which is equivalent to the consumption of 610 households. In 2013, Switzerland’s largest retailer Migros had already taken a similar initiative when equipping the roofs of its distribution center in Neuendorf (canton of Solothurn) with thousands of panels. The Swiss government encourages companies in general to embrace green energies by offering financial help to the ones using photovoltaic systems.
According to Roger Nordmann, president of Swissolar (the Swiss Solar Industry Association), solar energy covers today 2% of the electrical consumption in Switzerland. The production of such energy is increasing and this number is expecting to grow in the coming years. An evidence for this is the many foreign companies specialized in solar power who recently penetrated the Swiss market. Jinko Solar, Yingli Green Energy and Hanergy Solar, among others, opened branches on Helvetian ground between 2011 and 2014.
For more information about clean technologies in Switzerland, please refer to the Handbook for Investors (« Innovation and Technology » and chapter 2 « Economic Structure »).