1,000 Efficient Solutions: Bridging the Gap Between Ecology and Economy

As the future of the popular U.S.-based Energy Star program comes into question, the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions is striding forward, advancing innovative solutions with an “energy star” of its own — one with goals even more ambitious.
1,000 Efficient Solutions: Bridging the Gap Between Ecology and Economy

By Seabright McCabe, SWE Contributor

1,000 Efficient Solutions: Bridging the Gap Between Ecology and Economy
The Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label certifies technological feasibility, environmental and socioeconomic benefits, and economic profitability.

Each time I speak of protecting the environment to heads of state, they tell me, ‘We know we have to do something, but it’s too expensive,’” Bertrand Piccard, president and chairman of Solar Impulse Foundation, said in a recent webcast. “I want to prove them wrong. I want to show them how profitable it is to protect the environment, in terms of job creation, profits for industry, clean growth.”

Piccard, and the Solar Impulse Foundation’s 1,200-member World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, issued a challenge to the world in May 2018 from Copenhagen, Denmark: Find 1,000 clean, efficient, and profitable solutions worthy of the newly unveiled Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label.

“This label is a strong message to the world that this is the market opportunity of our century, an opportunity which cannot be missed,” Piccard said. “These solutions have the potential to create jobs and boost clean economic growth, while also reducing CO2 emissions and preserving natural resources. This is much more than ecological; it is logical.”

Each solution that passes rigorous standards, assessment, and testing will receive the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label. Technical feasibility, environmental and socioeconomic benefit, and profitability all must be proved. “The difference between our label and others is that it shows that you can bridge economic and ecological interests,” Piccard said.

Indeed, 356 members of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions have already submitted products, services, and technologies for evaluation. These submissions come from a membership that spans six continents, from established companies and start-ups whose efforts are beginning market rollout, to research institutions and incubators. Forty-nine solutions have so far received the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label.

All solutions must be at least in the small-scale prototype stage to qualify for the rigorous evaluation that precedes labeled status. Submissions first receive prescreening and are given tips for improvement. Next, the solution is assigned to two experts through a matchmaking tool on the website, for assessment and comments. Finally, there is a strict internal review and compliance check of the entity behind the solution. Receiving the label certifies that the solution meets the criteria of technological feasibility, environmental and socioeconomic benefits, and economic profitability.

Profitable and Good for the Environment

The Solar Impulse label is receiving international recognition and support from a growing number of institutions, such as the European Commission, the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the International Energy Agency, among others.

“We try to be the indicator of the capacity of the solution to be both profitable for people and good for the environment,” Alexandra Barraquand, technology and policy officer, Solar Impulse Foundation, said. “We want to make governments and policymakers across the world understand that they can be more ambitious in achieving their goals.”

1,000 Efficient Solutions: Bridging the Gap Between Ecology and Economy
EcoSystems’ new concrete substructure for offshore wind turbines, currently in real-world prototype testing.

A sampling of the solutions that have received the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label reveals the global impact these innovations plan to achieve:

• Cycle Farms (France): CycleFeed, an insect-based feed for West African tilapia farms. This solution contributes to the development of a local, circular economy through use of organic waste to raise fly larvae.
A sustainable new source of protein for fish and poultry, CycleFeed reduces CO2 emissions from transport, stimulates economic activity throughout target communities, and produces input nutritional insect meal at 30 percent less than the current market.

• Esteyco (Spain): A refabricated concrete base for offshore wind turbines built entirely onshore, it saves 30 percent of installation costs while boosting crew safety. Using concrete as the base material substantially reduces the need for steel, and its durability extends service life well beyond that of traditionally built turbines while lowering impact on the seabed and marine life.

• NET SAS (France): ANTISMOG, a system for adding hydrogen to the air-fuel mix for more complete combustion that reduces vehicle gas and particle emissions by 80 percent and is applicable to all types of combustion engines.

• SEaB Energy (UK): Flexibuster, a small, on-site, modular technology that transforms organic waste into renewable heat and electricity. By turning food waste into energy, it offsets 400 tons of carbon for every 1,000 tons processed.

• Basil Energetics (India): iGrid, an integrated rooftop solar grid and nanogrid for powering appliances in rural areas. The system allows DC appliances to bypass the need for inverters, drastically improving energy efficiency and reducing power consumption by 70–90 percent.

• Cool Energy (U.S.): ThermoHeart®, a novel air engine that generates clean electricity from waste heat. In remote locations, electricity is commonly generated with diesel-fueled generators, and recovering the heat from the exhaust manifold with a Stirling engine — extremely efficient compared with internal combustion engines — produces extra electricity and reduces fuel consumption. The solution has other applications such as solar thermal and biomass generation.

In 2016, Piccard touched down in Solar Impulse 2 for the last time, ending the record-breaking flight of the solar airplane that he and André Borschberg piloted around the world. In 2019, he will travel the world again, this time with 1,000 labeled solutions to present to decision-makers in governments and businesses, to spur them to adopt more ambitious policies and ignite the potential of clean, sustainable technology.

The new journey continues — one that will include thousands of start-ups and hundreds of established companies. Piccard’s message remains: “Our world needs to find new ways of improving the quality of human life. Let’s replace old polluting devices with modern, clean technologies. Sustainable growth will only come from solutions that can save energy and protect the environment. It is possible today to bridge ecology and economy.”

Stay current on the growing number of certified Efficient Solutions at www.solarimpulse.com.

H55 Receives Venture Capital Funding

1,000 Efficient Solutions: Bridging the Gap Between Ecology and Economy
André Borschberg, co-founder of H55, pilots aEro1 to promote electric propulsion technology for aviation.

Hangar 55 (H55) is a Swiss start-up founded by engineer, fighter pilot, and Solar Impulse Foundation board member, André Borschberg. H55’s aEro1, a single-engine aerobatic monoplane, relies on electric propulsion technology, and recently received first-round venture capital funding from Silicon Valley-based NanoDimension to continue proving the safety and efficiency of the technology, and to bring advancements in electric propulsion to the aviation industry.

The first iteration of aEro1 (covered in “High-Flying Clean Tech for Aviation” in SWE Magazine’s Conference 2017 issue) was able to fly for only an hour on its batteries. It was quickly followed by the second, which can fly for two, at a cost of three Swiss francs per hour. The technology, which is virtually silent and nonpolluting, reduces the noise and carbon emissions of flight, and holds strong implications for the future of aviation on a larger scale. Boeing and Airbus are also racing ahead with hybrid electric propulsion systems, with both companies planning maiden flights in the early 2020s.