“We made it!” shouts the splash page for the Solar Impulse Foundation. Four years after the first call for entries, the organization not only reached its goal of 1,000 solutions for solving the climate crisis with clean technology, but it’s already soaring beyond it.
By Seabright McCabe, SWE Contributor
In 2016, environmentalist Bertrand Piccard and engineer André Borschberg made aviation history by completing the first solar-powered, round-the-world flight. SWE Magazine covered their remarkable journey, and has reported on their continuing work in clean technology, ever since.
Having achieved this aviation “first,” Piccard created the Solar Impulse Foundation, whose mission was to identify and label 1,000 solutions that could profitably address climate change, and connect them to the funding needed to create profitable clean technology startups.
“These solutions are clean, efficient, cost effective, and available today,” he wrote, from Lausanne, Switzerland. “They reduce the environmental impact of construction and mobility, industry and agriculture, water and energy consumption, and social prosperity for all. Not in a century or a decade, but today.”
Currently, 1,035 solutions carry the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution label, earned after rigorous assessment by the foundation, its industrial partners, and independent experts. It’s an astonishing array of inventions and new technologies coming from every continent, and there is sure to be more.
The climate crisis meets determined innovators
The numbers inspire: 504 solutions for clean, affordable energy; another 556 for industry, innovation, and infrastructure. Two more categories, clean water and sanitation, and responsible consumption and production, fill out the remainder of labeled solutions, ready for, or already in the marketplace. Here’s a tiny fraction of them:
Wind Tulips, by Flower Turbines (USA): With wind farms popping up, concerns have grown about noise, vibration, and danger to birds and marine life. These small and efficient wind turbines can be installed in groups, near people and buildings. They produce electricity at lower wind speeds, and are made of 100% recyclable metals. Its largest blade size is 16 feet (5 m), it reduces bird kill to zero, and sounds no louder than the wind itself.
SolMate, by EET (Austria): For consumers who want to save 25% on household electric bills, this modular photovoltaic system can be installed by anyone who can put in a car battery. Meant for balconies and decks, SolMate replaces energy from the grid with self-generated solar power. It’s handy for preserving household goods during a power failure or blackout.
NexGen Heating Film, by NexGen Futures (UK): 57% more efficient than wire-heated mats, this ultrathin, graphene composite film can be installed on walls, floors, and ceilings, and cut to accommodate fixtures and sockets. 100% carbon-free when powered by solar panels; when not, it uses 57% less energy to heat the average UK home than burning fossil fuels.
Circular Sanitation Solution, by Mosan (Guatemala): According to the World Health Organization, more than 4.2 billion people lack access to safe sanitation. Untreated waste in the environment causes disease and damages the nutrient balance in ecosystems. Mosan’s ecotoilet is off-grid, in-home, and prevents about 1,200 lbs (530 kg) of untreated human waste per household per year from entering the environment. It uses 5,300 gallons (20,000 liters) per year less water than comparable flush toilets.
BRANBOX, by Biotrem (Poland): Plastic, single-use tableware is carbon and energy-intensive to make, and causes downstream pollution. These plates, cups, bowls, and silverware are made mostly of wheat bran, 100% plant based. Much less expensive than competing products, they also biodegrade in landfills within 30 days. One ton of raw material from the agriculture or food industry makes 10,000 plates and bowls.
Solar Ferry Boat, by NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats (India): Using advanced electric powertrain and photovoltaics, this catamaran-style ferry replaces a diesel-powered ferry’s fumes, noise, and vibration with a virtually silent, vibration-free, more efficient transport. NavAlt ferries have been shown to operate at 1/40th the cost of their diesel counterparts while decreasing damage to waterways and marine life. An investment in one of them breaks even in less than three years.
All 1,035 solutions have the endorsement of Solar Impulse Foundation, which is supported by its many industry partners who sponsored Solar Impulse 2, among them, Solvay, Siemens, Schlumberger, and Nestlé.
There’s going to be apps for this
Part of the difficulty in forming a united response to the climate crisis may be simply not knowing who has the solution, or how to find it. Solar Impulse presents its labeled solutions under one umbrella so they can be found, no matter who or where you are, or what your level of influence may be.
This November, the foundation will roll out a tool called simply, “the Guide,” for individual consumers looking for products that save them money while reducing individual carbon footprints. A second tool, also set for November, is “Cleanprint,” which offers decision-makers and policymakers in business and government a concrete path to meeting sustainability goals, laid out by country, region, and city.
A third platform, also in development, targets ecologically and socially minded investors who want to quickly see proof of each solution’s social and environmental benefits, and profitability.
“We now have the proof that enough solutions exist to make our world more profitable, efficient, and sustainable,” Piccard said. “Therefore, no excuses left for inaction.”