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Two globally pioneering technologies among Swiss energy prize winners

The water on which the power plant floats helps cool the solar panels thus improving their efficiency. Keystone / Valentin Flauraud

A floating solar power plant and a transport project using renewable hydrogen are among the winners of the 2021 Watt d’Or prize.

Awarded annually by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy since 2007, the goal of the Watt d’Or is to “showcase outstanding products or services in the energy sector”.

The 2021 winners, selected from 64 projects, include two world firsts in the fields of renewable energy and sustainable transport.

One is the world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant. It was built on the Lac des Toules, a hydroelectric reservoir located 1,800 metres above sea level in the western Swiss canton of Valais.

Despite the extreme conditions, with snow, strong winds and temperatures ranging from -25°C to 30°C, the power plant – operated by the energy supplier Romande Energie and the ABB Switzerland Group – can produce up to 50% more electricity than a power plant of the same size located in the plains.

Future transport

Another pioneering winner comes from a consortium – made up of the private companies Hydrospider and H2 Energy, the association Mobility H2 Switzerland and the Korean manufacturer Hyundai – which aims to develop the world’s first commercial renewable hydrogen project.

The project includes the production of hydrogen in a hydroelectric plant, the construction of a network of filling stations and the rollout of heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles. Once operational, it will fuel the world’s first fleet of hydrogen-powered commercial trucks (1,600 vehicles by 2025) and will help eliminate around 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

The other winners of the Watt d’Or 2021 are: the start-up Adaptricity, which has developed IT tools for better management of electricity networks; the Umwelt Arena Switzerland foundation and the René Schmid architectural firm for the creation of a building complex powered by renewable energy; and the real estate company Mettiss and engineer Beat Kegel for their renovation of an old office building.

The Watt d’Or 2021 prize will be awarded to the winners at a small ceremony in Bern on Thursday.

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