Valais, the alpine cleantech innovator
22 August 2023
From alpine solar parks to eco-friendly fabric innovations, the canton of Valais merges natural splendor with a robust cleantech ecosystem, continuously pushing the bounds of sustainable progress.
Nestled amid the towering peaks and deep valleys of the Swiss Alps, the canton of Valais stands out not just for its natural magnificence but also as a hub for cleantech innovation. As global focus pivots to sustainable and eco-friendly solutions, this picturesque canton seamlessly fuses its abundant natural resources with state-of-the-art technology.
Historically, Valais has always been known for its breathtaking landscapes, attracting tourists from all over the world. However, in the wake of the 21st century’s environmental challenges, the canton saw an opportunity to evolve, to transform its reputation from a mere tourist destination to a global hotspot for cleantech initiatives.
Cultivating research and innovation
Central to Valais’ ambitious cleantech blueprint is the Energypolis Campus. This sprawling hub, funded by a whopping CHF 400 million, is far more than just a research institution. With a footprint of 43,000 square meters and 29 state-of-the-art labs, Energypolis is where academic brilliance meets entrepreneurial vision. It is here that institutions like EPFL Valais/Wallis and the University of Applied Sciences (HEVS) come together with start-ups, creating a synergistic environment that fosters groundbreaking research and its swift transition from lab to market.
One cannot discuss Energypolis without mentioning its notable tenants. Natron Energy is venturing into unique battery technologies that could revolutionize energy storage. H55, a spin-off from Solar Impulse, is aiming for cleaner skies with its electric propulsion innovations. And DePoly’s efforts in plastic recycling hint at a future where waste is not an endpoint, but a beginning.
Pioneering the future of EV charging
In the expanding realm of clean technologies in Valais, WattAnyWhere emerges as a pinnacle of sustainable innovation. This Energypolis-based start-up’s unique creation transforms renewable ethanol—sourced solely from by-products like used sugar beet and wheat straw—into potent electricity. The focus? Speedy charging solutions for the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market. WattAnyWhere’s 100% renewable, eco-friendly electricity production process is tailor-made to address this impending challenge.
The company aims to perfect its 350W proof-of-concept within the EPFL lab in Sion, which includes refining the efficiency of the fuel cell and introducing a self-optimizing control algorithm.
Harnessing the power of nature
The Hydro Alps Lab is another example of the canton’s commitment to harnessing its alpine waters for sustainable energy. This collaborative venture between local stakeholders like Alpiq, FMV, HYDRO Exploitation, and HES-SO Valais-Wallis’ School of Engineering offers a comprehensive approach to hydroelectric challenges, making it an integral part of Switzerland’s 2050 energy vision.
Yet, the jewel in Valais’ renewable crown is arguably the alpine floating solar park on Lac des Toules. Spearheaded by Romande Energie, this massive project is poised to not only transform the energy landscape of Valais but also set a global benchmark. The numbers are staggering – 22 GWh of energy annually, powering a majority of the Entremont district, all while floating gracefully on a serene alpine lake.
Turning challenges into opportunities
In a world grappling with the threat of plastic, a Valais-based start-up has turned adversity into opportunity. By manufacturing modular homes from recycled plastic waste, UHCS not only tackles environmental challenges, but also transforms them into sustainable housing solutions.
Moreover, RedElec‘s foray into the textile industry embodies Valais’ ethos of integrating sustainability into mainstream sectors. Their eco-friendly dyeing technology, which has successfully penetrated the Asian market, exemplifies how innovation can lead to both ecological and economic wins.
Merging high-tech with sustainability
Aleph Insight, positioned strategically at the Energypolis Campus, epitomizes the seamless integration of advanced technology with sustainable practices. Their pioneering light mechanism goes beyond mere air purification, reaching realms like wastewater treatment. This is innovation not confined by traditional boundaries, but one that seeks to reimagine and redefine them.
Unifying Western Switzerland’s innovation for a sustainable future
Launched by the cantons of Western Switzerland, CleantechAlps serves as a one-stop-shop for promoting clean technologies, amalgamating the expertise, innovations, and ambitions of the region. By fostering connections, sharing knowledge, and driving growth, the platform underpins the Western Switzerland’s cantons commitment to melding innovation with environmental preservation.
As Valais’ companies make significant strides in areas like water quality preservation, waste valorization, and revolutionary textile processes, CleantechAlps ensures that their innovations are not only recognized but also amplified on both a national and global stage.
The canton of Valais, with its alpine charm, is a testament to how nature and technology can coexist harmoniously. Its mix of research, abundant natural resources, and dynamic start-ups make it the ideal location for companies looking to develop sustainable and forward-thinking solutions.