Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “Switzerland”

Gravity Battery

Commercial Demonstration Unit August 2020 – Arbedo-Castione

With wide-spread hydropower facilities, constant threats of avalanches and mud slides, as well as trains having to bridge altitude differences all day, Alpine country Switzerland knows a thing or two about potential energy: the energy that can be won by lowering big masses of matter and converting it into kinetic energy.

But now they might be pushing it a little too much, as they are embarking on an uphill-struggle, pun intended.

Reuters – Energy Vault, a developer of utility-scale battery storage technology backed by SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) and the venture arm of Saudi Aramco (2222.SE), has raised $100 million in a funding round, its chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday (21 Aug 2021).

Energy Vault offers a design of a gravity storage systems that stacks 35 ton concrete blocks upon each other with cranes to build towers, converting excess electricity from regardless which source, into potential energy. The density of concrete is about 2.4 times that of water. If electricity is required, the tower is torn down in a (hopefully) controlled manner. Round-trip efficiency 90%. In Switzerland, the concrete blocks can be produced locally. Intended max. tower height: ca. 130 meter, a large church tower. Capacity: 35 MWh.

To illustrate the point, here my holiday pictures of 2012:

[deepresource] – Mattmark Hydro Power Plant

This is a medium-sized storage, able to produce 130 MW for merely a couple of hours. Total storage capacity of the lake: 77,500,000 m3 or 77,500,000 tonnes at a height difference of almost 1500 m or 254.5 GWh in energy terms. In other words, the midsized mountain lake of Mattmark contains 7300 times more energy than the proposed concrete tower. Switzerland has 556 hydroelectric power plants.

The gravity battery could be ideal to illustrate the concept of potential energy to students, but one of those suffice for that purpose. To solve the energy storage problem, they are merely a gimmick. 35 MWh, that’s the equivalent of 1000 kg hydrogen, that can be stored as NH3 or methanol or borohydride in a container of a few m3.

[] – SoftBank-backed storage developer Energy Vault raises $100 mln
[] – Energy Vault
[] – Energy Vault company site
[Google Maps] – Arbedo-Castione Energy Vault

Innolith Doubles Energy Density Li-Ion Batteries

In an interview, the Swiss battery company Innolith has said that its lithium-ion batteries will have comparable energy density as solid-state batteries, that is double the amount of conventional lithium-ion batteries, at the same price. The innovation would significantly increase the range of e-vehicles, as well as solve the flammability issue with lithium-ion.

By early 2019, Innolith scientists had discovered a completely new electrolyte. This new electrolyte was unrelated to the intellectual property it had acquired from Alevo and had the potential to overcome the energy density limitations of traditional Li-ion. The new electrolyte maintained the non-flammability while opening up development routes to higher energy densities for Li-ion technology.

The Innolith R&D further refined and perfected the electrolyte and electrode combination during the following two years and in December 2020 the company completed the 1st stage of development of its new technology. This included successfully building and testing sample cells that have 310 Wh/kg specific energy density.

[] – Innolith company site
[] – ‘Our lithium-ion battery will have double the energy density of standard Li-ion for same price’
[] – Lithium-ion battery

Switzerland Rejects CO2 Law

[source] Nearly all the world’s glaciers are melting at an accelerated pace, study finds. The iconic Swiss glaciers and tourism highlights are expected to be vanished before 2100.

Grüezi mitenand. Switzerland, in a referendum, has rejected a law that would enable the country to achieve the objectives, as laid out in the Paris Accords, a treaty nota bene, Switzerland itself signed.

[] – Switzerland misses its emissions targets

Since 1990, Switzerland reduced its CO2-emissions with 14%, where the EU achieved 20% over the same time frame. Ironically, Switzerland and its mountain regions, suffer more than average from increased temperatures. To be fair, Switzerland has a low carbon footprint (CH-4.8, EU-8.3, D-9.1), not because of a titanic effort to curb emissions, but because it is blessed with a share of 59% hydro-power, a gift from nature and mostly implemented for reasons of economic advantage, before the climate issue became pressing. And additionally, Switzerland has 19% nuclear power, a dubious source of power. Nevertheless, the referendum outcome sets a bad example. A solution for the world’s environmental problems can only come from the rich European countries, including one of its richest, Switzerland.

From America, little can be expected, as that country is too busy trying to militarily subjugate the rest of the world, an entirely futile effort, while it is rapidly morphing into a Third World country, that eventually will blow itself up as a result of unsurmountable inter-ethnic tensions, paving the way for a return of a united Europe onto the world stage after 2030. During the rest of the 21st century, Europe (incl. Russia) and China will be vying for geopolitical pole position, just like the US and USSR did after WW2.

Regarding Switzerland (and Britain), it’s understandable to become skeptical about the wisdom of referendums on complicated issues. The lower strata of the populist-minded population in general votes for small-minded egoism, flag-waving and not-taking responsibility for international problems. The Swiss are very much like the English in this respect: geographically and historically isolated.

They both fared well in recent history, because the UK had an empire to milk and Switzerland used its isolation to offer itself as a heaven of neutrality and natural base for international organizations and even stronger: a banking system bordering on criminality, that at some point laundered 50% of the world’s criminal money.

No more. Both the UK and Switzerland are going to experience first hand what it means to maneuver yourself into isolation: no friends, no favors. In all likelihood, the UK is going to fall apart as a result of the Brexit referendum and subsequent economic devastation. Switzerland, that recently broke off negotiations over new relations with the EU, will soon find out what it means to oppose yourself against a body, 55 times your size.

[] – Swiss reject law to help country meet Paris carbon emissions goal
[] – Volk lehnt CO2-Gesetz mit 51,6 % ab
[] – Scherbenhaufen in der Schweizer Klimapolitik: Die Mehrheit will das Klima nur schützen, wenn es nichts kostet
[] – Irish deputy PM Leo Varadkar risks inflaming bitter Brexit row as he says unifying the island of Ireland is his ‘mission’
[] – Lord Heseltine suggests Brexit vote allows Germany to win WW2
[] – How Delusions About World War II Fed Brexit Mania

Biodegradable Paper Batteries

The number of data-transmitting microdevices, for instance in packaging and transport logistics, will increase sharply in the coming years. All these devices need energy, but the amount of batteries would have a major impact on the environment. Empa researchers have developed a biodegradable mini-capacitor that can solve the problem. It consists of carbon, cellulose, glycerin and table salt. And it works reliably…

What emerges is an ecological miracle. The mini-capacitor from the lab can store electricity for hours and can already power a small digital clock. It can withstand thousands of charge and discharge cycles and years of storage, even in freezing temperatures, and is resistant to pressure and shock…

Best of all, though, when you no longer need it, you could toss it in the compost or simply leave it in nature. After two months, the capacitor will have disintegrated, leaving only a few visible carbon particles.

[] – The biodegradable battery
[] – Neuartige kompostierbare Papier-Batterie aus dem 3D-Drucker
[] – Research article
[] – The biodegradable battery that’s 3D printed, disposable and made of paper

DPD E-Truck Futuricum with 760 km Range

Swiss package deliverer DPD has electrified a Volvo diesel truck and managed a spectacular range of 760 km per charge, battery 680 kWh, the largest in the world so far. Volvo was so impressed that they took a majority stake in the Swiss club DesignWerk, specialized in these kind of transformations. An annual 75 ton CO2 are avoided.

[] – DPD Switzerland: deliveries by electric truck

“2226” – Heating with Light, Humans and Devices Only

German language video, Lustenau, Austria.

Passive heating in Austria. Temperature all-year around guaranteed to be between 22-26 C, hence the qualifier “2226”. Office building with 100 work places. Humans themselves are “hot” and serve as heat sources of 80 Watt. And so are devices like computers, lights, coffee machines, printers, etc. The trick is to keep this modest amount of generated heat inside the walls, that are no less than 76 cm thick.

The windows are deep inside, to prevent that too much solar heat will penetrate into the building in the summer, eliminating the need for cooling with energy devouring air conditioners. If inside, the temperature gets too hot or the air too stuffy, valves in the outer walls are simply opened. No complicated network of pipes and pumps is installed. The resulting building is cheap and simple and hence low-maintenance.


So where’s the catch? An important point is to let go of the superfluous wish to completely control the temperature at say 22 C. By tolerating the temperature to vary between 22 and 26 C, you gain a lot of freedom to eliminate both heating and cooling and leave it to inhabitants to decide to work in a t-shirt or pullover. Another important point is the relatively large thermal mass inside the building, that acts as a buffer and temperature stabilizer.

German language video with English subs. Example Luzerne, Switzerland.

[] – Keine Heizung, trotzdem 26 Grad – das System „2226“ macht Bauen einfacher
[] – Lochziegel

German language video, Burgenland, Austria. If works for detached homes too.

[source] Building elements for a 2226 building

Carbon-neutral Fuel Made From Sunlight and Air

Researchers from ETH Zurich have developed a novel technology that produces liquid hydrocarbon fuels exclusively from sunlight and air. For the first time worldwide they demonstrate the entire thermochemical process chain under real field conditions. The new solar mini-refinery is located on the roof of ETH’s Machine Laboratory building in Zurich.

[] – Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

Read more…

Agile Wind Power AG Markets Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Sales pitch: 3 times less noise, no need to track the wind direction, less gearbox fatigue, less damage to bird population and more.

First prototype is being build in the German state of Nord-Rhein-Westfalen.

[] – Dieses Windrad soll dreimal leiser sein
[] – Vertical axis wind turbine


Read more…

New Catalyst Improves Chances Fuel Cell

Danish and Swiss researchers have developed a method to construct fuel cells with less platinum and lower its cost. The new catalyst consists of a weave of platinum and cobalt, that has a higher chemical activity per unit of platinum. As a side-effect, fuel cells can operate at higher temperatures. The amount of platinum per car can in principle be reduced from 30-50 gram down to 5 gram.

But it is too early to announce a breakthrough. The technology has yet to prove it can work in heavy duty practice, outside laboratory conditions.

[] – Neuer Katalysator soll Kosten von Brennstoffzellen senken
[] – Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are becoming longer lasting
[] – Self-supported Pt–CoO networks combining high specific activity with high surface area for oxygen reduction

Meyer-Burger Strategy Change

Most solar panels come from China, right? Could be wrong. Solar equipment manufacturer Meyer-Burger from Switzerland will stop selling its state-of-the-art machines and instead will use them for their own solar module production and service the exponentially growing global solar market under the motto: “why sell the goose with the golden eggs?”, and rather sell the eggs. The company believes it holds the technological holy grail (“smartwire”).

A large proportion of the solar modules produced world-wide today are based on technologies developed by Meyer Burger. By selling its production equipment, however, Meyer Burger relinquished control of its technology and largely left the realization of the added value creation to its customers. Meyer Burger’s Board of Directors has decided that Meyer Burger, as a rule, will in the future manufacture production equipment for Heterojunction/SmartWire exclusively for its own use and aims to become a leading global producer of solar cells and modules… Meyer Burger delivered the proof of concept of heterojunction/SmartWire in mass production at the end of 2019 by successfully establishing a 600 MW production line for a client. The proceeds from the capital increase are expected to be used primarily to build up production capacities and the sales organization. Meyer Burger expects to save significant time and economic resources by acquiring existing production sites in Germany… Recently, Fraunhofer ISE also confirmed a record efficiency of 25.4% for a heterojunction solar cell manufactured with the Company’s latest technology in May 2020… The European and global market potential is considerable. In Germany, renewable energy to supply 65 percent of electricity by 2030, and Europe is to become climate neutral by 2050. In Germany alone, the government has set a photovoltaic expansion target of 98 GW until 2030.

[] – Meyer-Burger strategy U-turn
[] – SmartWire Connection Technology

Meyer Burger Plans Producing Solar Panels in Germany

The Swiss technology company Meyer Burger wants to produce solar panels in Germany, in the high-end, high-quality, high-efficiency (24%) range and avoid Asian competition in the lower segments. Other parties involved are the Norwegian solar module maker REC Group as well as Oxford University. The output of the new factory could be installed in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as floating solar on an artificial lake like in the Hambach Forest, on the terrain of an abandoned coal mine.

10 GW solar power could replace an equal amount of coal-based power generation in Weisweiler, Neurath, Niederaußem and Frimmersdorf.

[] – Meyer Burger mulls gigawatt-scale German solar fab
[] – German coal mines could host 3 GW of floating PV
[] – Meyer Burger company site
[] – Hambach Forest
[] – A Coal Mine Is Devouring a 12,000-Year-Old Forest

Record Solar Hydrogen Yield with Concentrated Sunlight

Achieving high current densities while maintaining high energy conversion efficiency is one of the main challenges for enhancing the competitiveness of photo-electrochemical devices. We describe a concept that allows this challenge to be overcome by operating under concentrated solar irradiation (up to 474 kW m−2), using thermal integration, mass transport optimization and a close electronic integration between the photoabsorber and electrocatalyst. We quantify the increase in the theoretical maximum efficiencies resulting from thermal integration, and experimentally validate the concept using a III–V-based photoabsorber and IrRuOx–Pt-based electrocatalysts. We reach current densities higher than 0.88 A cm−2 at calculated solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiencies above 15%. Device performance, dynamic response and stability are investigated, demonstrating the ability to produce hydrogen stably under varying conditions for more than two hours. The current density and output power (27 W) achieved provide a pathway for device scalability aimed towards the large-scale deployment of photo-electrochemical hydrogen production

Integrated PEC device. This device includes a reactant delivery channel assembly containing a solar glass window, beneath which lies the photoactive component. The photoactive component is in direct contact with the anodic titanium flow/collector plate. The anodic and cathodic titanium plates sandwich the catalyst-coated membrane, GDLs and gaskets, forming the electrochemical component where water splitting takes place. The coolant/reactant enters the delivery channel assembly and flows directly over the photoactive component, removing excess heat and transferring it to the catalytic sites.

[] – Record solar hydrogen production with concentrated sunlight
[] – Photoelectrochemical cell
[] – Photoelectrochemical Cell
[] – A thermally synergistic photo-electrochemical hydrogen generator operating under concentrated solar irradiation

UBS – VW to be the First to Make a Profit from E-vehicles

Volkswagen will become the first global automaker to make money selling battery-only electric vehicles (BEVs) with profits kicking in from 2022, according to a report from Swiss investment bank UBS… Sales of battery-only cars and SUVs will accelerate to more than 15% of the global market by 2025, while Tesla’s position as the world’s most desired electric vehicle will come under pressure from German competition, UBS said.

[] – VW Will Be The 1st Mass Market Electric Car Profit Maker: Report

3D-Printed Home for $4000,-

Cheap printed home from Austin, Texas. Real promise for the third world.

3D-printing opening up the possibility that by the turn of the century, most people on this planet, including territories such as Africa, India and the Philippines, could live in a stone, 3D-printed home, connected to sewage, a local solar power source.

The financial and technological push for this should come from Eurasia, in return for a rigorous birth control program: 2 children and not more. The way to provide these territories with the financial means to pay for it, is to integrate them in a global energy scheme. Sunny territories with an abundance of cheap labor should provide a sizable chunk of the planet’s future hydrogen needs.

[] – Construction 3D printing

Printed home in Nantes, France

[] – The world’s first family to live in a 3D-printed home

In Eindhoven in the South of the Netherlands, houses are to be printed, intended to be sold on the regular commercial market. The innovation is that the homes will have several stories (English subs))

[] – A small community of 3D-printed concrete houses is coming to the Netherlands

Europe’s first 3D-concrete printing factory opened in Eindhoven. Interesting is that traditional wooden molds are no longer necessary and that far less cement is being used. Steel concrete enforcement can be printed too.

Very large-scale 3D-printing project in Den Helder in the Netherlands, where a shabby building from the seventies is being upgraded with ca. 1,200 new 3D-printed concrete elements of 2 to 12 m2 each.

First 3D-printed home in Africa (Morocco)

Read more…

18.1% – New Perovskite Solar Record

An international team of scientists claim to have developed perovskite solar cells with an efficiency of 18.1% by using a new configuration of cesium lead iodide perovskite CsPbI3, which has the narrowest band gap – 1.73 eV – of all inorganic lead halide perovskites.

Researchers from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan observed CsPbI3 cystals in their more stable beta phase. Previous research focused on the crystals in their alpha, or dark phase.

[] – New configuration gives perovskite cells 18% efficiency
[] – Perovskite solar cell
[] – Why perovskite solar cells are so efficient

CO2 –> CO/C –> CO2 Fuel Cycle?

Renewable energy has won once science can come up with a method to effectively store intermittent renewable electricity in some chemical form or another. Many candidates have been proposed: hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), methanol (CH3OH), metal powders like iron (Fe), formic acid (HCO2H), sodium borohydride (NaBH4),

Scientists from the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have found a method to reduce CO2 into CO, where an iron catalyst is used instead of a golden one, with high efficiency (90% at low currents).

[] – Carbon-neutral fuels move a step closer (6-2019)
[] – The first low-cost system for splitting carbon dioxide (6-2017)
[] – Catalyzing carbon dioxide: System can transform CO2 into CO for use in industry (12-2017)
[] – Improved carbon capture turns CO2 into energy storage material
[] – This Low-Cost Carbon Dioxide Splitter Just Changed The Game For Solar-Powered CO2 Reduction (6-2017)

Innolith – 1 kWh/kg Battery Breakthrough

The Swiss company Innolith claims to have developed a battery that can store 1.0 kWh per kg, that is three times as high as the Tesla-3 achieves, extending the range of a single charge to 1,000 km. Innolith expects that the innovation will hit the market in 3-5 years time. If true, the Asian and US competition would be crushed. Innolith has its HQ in Basel, Switzerland, but the innovation was developed in Bruchsal, Germany. The technology is based on Lithium-ion, but with modifications and the specs are almost too good to be true. 50,000 charge cycles, no exotic materials, no fire hazard. The innovation was enabled by using pure materials. Innolith wants to focus on reserach and development and outsource production under license.

Tellingly, Innolith has received endorsement by Microsoft’s principal battery engineer Walter van Schalkwijk.

[] – Walter van Schalkwijk
[] – Lithium Batteries: Advanced Technologies and Applications, van Schalkwijk e.a.

[] – Company site
[] – Swiss Startup Innolith Claims 1000 Wh/kg Battery Breakthrough
[] – A battery breakthrough?
[] – Electric car battery with 600 miles of range?
[] – Verhilft die deutsche Superbatterie dem E-Auto zum Durchbruch?

Concrete Battery

Swiss startup Energy Vault wants to lift concrete weights (density 2.4 ton/m3) to store renewable energy when there is no pumped hydro as alternative, currently 96% of the world’s energy storage capacity, with 75% of it in 10 suitable countries only.

The idea: 120 m crane lifting 35 ton of concrete blocks and pile them up neatly. Storage capacity 20 MWh, sufficient for 2,000 household-days. Round-trip efficiency 85%. The lifting and positioning is done automatically, no human intervention necessary, thanks to camera’s and software. The system is relatively insensitive to wind, software compensates for it. The idea is to use building waste, municipalities otherwise pay money for to get rid off.

Currently a demo site with 20 m crane and 500 kg blocks is in operation.
Storage cost:

Lithium-ion: $280-350/kWh
Concrete battery: $150/kWh

First commercial projects are said to be realized early 2019.

[] – Stacking concrete blocks is a surprisingly efficient way to store energy
[] – Energy Vault Proposes An Energy Storage System Using Concrete Blocks


If you realize that the average occupation rate of your standard sedan is ca. 1.25 persons, meaning that a car mindlessly mainly moves 3.75 empty seats around… if you additionally realize that in a carbon-starved world, not because we run out of carbon but rather that we running into limits of the amount of carbon the atmosphere can handle, we cannot continue with our old ways… if you also realize that a car is mainly used for single person commuting (in Holland on average 34 km/day), shopping and business travel and not for happy families of 5 travelling to the seaside with dad-knows-best behind the steering wheel and mum distributing the sandwiches… these three realizations should really cause car designers to rethink traditional personal transportation assumptions.

Enter the Swiss-made Microlino:

Battery: 8 kWh or 14.4 kWh
Acceleration (0-50 km/h): 5 seconds
Range: 120 km or 215 km (with 14.4 kWh battery)
Maximum speed: 90 km/h
Price: 12,000 euros
Market-ready: 2019

Note: this could be the solution for those happy few who still will own a car. For the lesser Gods, the self-driving shared van could be the future.

[] – Microlino
[] – Micro Mobility Systems
[] – The Tiny Electric Microlino Is The Ideal City Mobility Answer
[] – The adorable Microlino car just got approved for European streets

Oh, and happy families can take the train to the sea-side, once or twice a year

Switzerland – The Alpine Battery

Swiss hydro power generates 60% of the countries electricity.

[] – Electricity sector in Switzerland

More General Electric renewable energy drone videos:

Read more…

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