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Solar technology advancements in the canton of Neuchâtel


18 October 2023

The various projects and collaborations underway in Neuchâtel exemplify its commitment to harnessing solar energy for a sustainable future. The various projects and collaborations underway in Neuchâtel exemplify its commitment to harnessing solar energy for a sustainable future.

The canton of Neuchâtel is making strides in solar technology, with various projects and collaborations propelling the region forward.

In a global climate where renewable energy is pivotal, the canton of Neuchâtel is carving a niche for itself in solar technology advancements. By harnessing solar energy, not only is the canton aligning with Switzerland’s energy transition goals but also contributing to broader global sustainability objectives. These solar innovations are vital in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, paving the way towards a low-carbon economy, and demonstrating how regions can effectively contribute to global renewable energy efforts.

A tripartite venture towards sustainable energy

In Le Locle, a collaborative venture involving the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and Meyer Burger under the aegis of Dixi Polytool has culminated in a significant solar project. This initiative saw the installation of over 2,000 advanced solar panels on the roof of Dixi Polytool’s factory. The solar array, comprising 2,135 panels, is anticipated to generate a substantial one million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This endeavor will substantially offset Dixi Polytool’s electricity demands, covering about one-third of its yearly consumption, marking a notable stride towards not only reducing operational costs but also minimizing carbon emissions.

Bridging renewable energy and refinery operations

In Cressier, a notable collaboration between VARO Energy Group and Groupe E has given rise to Switzerland’s largest ground-mounted solar park with an impressive installed capacity of 7.7 MW. Comprising 19,000 photovoltaic panels, this facility is uniquely positioned to power the country’s only refinery, significantly contributing to its energy needs. This project, representing a substantial investment of about CHF 6.5 million, is a tangible step towards the energy transition, reinforcing the region’s commitment to renewable energy. Moreover, the partnership with CSEM to test a new generation of solar panels emphasizes the project’s focus on innovation.

Pioneering upcycling in solar infrastructure

Turn2Sun, emanating from Neuchâtel’s innovative ecosystem, has launched Blade2Sun, a novel initiative that channels the repurposing ethos towards wind turbine blades. By transforming these blades into robust supports for bifacial solar panels, Turn2Sun is not only addressing the pressing end-of-life challenge faced by wind turbine components but also fostering a culture of sustainability and resourcefulness. This innovation diverts materials from landfill, providing a new lease of life to the wind turbine blades, while simultaneously propelling forward the practical application of solar technology. Through Blade2Sun, Turn2Sun is showcasing a viable model of circular economy within the renewable energy sector.

Trailblazing renewable energy on tracks

Sun-Ways has initiated a pioneering pilot project in Neuchâtel, envisioning a substantial portion of the Swiss railway system powered by solar electricity. By installing solar panels between railway tracks, Sun-Ways is exploring a new frontier in sustainable energy production. This pilot project, set to launch this spring on the Buttes line, showcases a removable installation design for easy maintenance. Sun-Ways aims to provide traction power directly for trains or feed the public electricity grid in the long term, potentially revolutionizing energy sourcing for public transportation while bolstering Neuchâtel’s reputation as a hub for solar innovation.

Elevating photovoltaic efficiency

Within the framework of the Hiperion project, the CSEM has played a crucial role in pioneering highly efficient photovoltaic panels. These groundbreaking panels have demonstrated a remarkable power conversion efficiency of over 29%, substantially outperforming conventional panels. By harmoniously blending conventional photovoltaic technology with concentrated photovoltaics, Hiperion’s hybrid panels maintain optimal power production even under varying sunlight conditions. This project, stationed at Innoparc technology park in Neuchâtel, is a testament to collaborative innovation, potentially redefining solar energy utilization in urban settings where space is a premium yet energy demands are high.

Setting two world records in solar cell efficiency

In a collaborative venture, EPFL and CSEM have achieved a notable milestone by setting two world records in solar cell efficiency with their perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells. Surpassing the 30% efficiency mark, this breakthrough exemplifies the potential for significant advancements in photovoltaic technology. By overcoming the efficiency limitations inherent to silicon, the collaboration heralds a promising trajectory towards optimizing solar energy conversion, thereby contributing to the evolving narrative of solar technology innovation emanating from Neuchâtel.

A hub for solar technology innovation

These initiatives significantly highlight Neuchâtel’s dedication to nurturing advancements in solar technology, aligning with Switzerland’s overarching renewable energy aspirations. Through synergistic collaborations and pioneering projects, Neuchâtel is rapidly emerging as a focal point of solar technology innovation. The canton’s active engagement with both academic institutions and industry leaders is fostering a conducive environment for renewable energy exploration and development, propelling not only regional but national strides towards a sustainable energy future.