Repower sponsors the world's first solar prize for plus-energy buildings

(PresseBox) ( Poschiavo/Zurich, )
On 3 September the ceremony for the 20th Swiss Solar Prize will be held in Zurich. For the first time it will include an award for plusenergy buildings. The CHF 100,000 in prize money for the world's first Norman Foster Solar Award for plusenergy buildings has been provided by Repower. In sponsoring the prize, Repower aims to promote innovation in buildings, an area of intensive energy use, and show how well reservoir and pumped storage power plants such as its Lago Bianco project complement solar and wind energy and pioneering building technology.

Repower sees the key to assuring a longterm, sustainable electricity supply in the smart networking of renewable energy resources such as hydropower, wind, photovoltaic and biomass. Electricity can easily be converted into any other form of energy, and is easily transportable. This, coupled with the fact that virtually any measure designed to boost efficiency, from heat pumps and intelligent building systems to emobility, involves the use of electrical power, means that electricity is set to become even more important going forward. Basically there are enough renewable energy resources available in the long term. But developing and harnessing them will require a great deal of pioneering spirit, financial resources, and time. For example, ways must be found of temporarily storing electricity from wind and solar power installations - plants that can only generate power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, which is not always when consumers need it. Another challenge is how to transport electricity to the places where most of its consumers are located, for example from offshore wind farms in the North Sea or solar thermal installations in North Africa or Southern Europe.

Lago Bianco: a key project in the right environment

In its key markets, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, Repower is developing its portfolio of generation assets on an ongoing basis to be in a position to back its sales and trading activities with its own generation. The portfolio is well diversified in both geographic and technological terms to take account of both present and future needs. Renewable energy - particularly hydro and wind power - is a clear area of focus. One of Repower's current projects is the construction of the 1,000 MW Lago Bianco pumped storage plant in the Bernina/Poschiavo area of Southeast Switzerland. Pumped storage plants are performing an increasingly important function in the European grid. All over Europe, new renewables such as wind and solar energy are being promoted vigorously. As already mentioned, one of the characteristics of these generation technologies is that they generate power independently of the needs of consumers. This is where pumped storage plants come in.

Large quantities of energy cannot be stored, but water can be. Pumped storage plants use surplus electricity at periods of low demand to pump water into reservoirs at a higher altitude. When demand for electricity increases and/or little energy is being generated from other sources, the water in the higher reservoir can be reused to generate electricity. This makes pumped storage plants the perfect match for today's energy policy; indeed they are one of the keys that allow different forms of energy generation to be coordinated in the first place. "Provided the will exists, it really is possible to reconcile economic and environmental interests," says Felix Vontobel, Deputy CEO and Head of Assets at Repower, commenting on the Lago Bianco project. The new project is being developed in collaboration with environmental organisations in place of a different project that had originally been planned.

Solar prize encourages innovation

The solar prize is an important driver of innovation, and is awarded to projects that tread new paths. This includes harnessing potential savings, efficiency gains and new forms of energy generation and usage. Here plusenergy buildings, which are able to generate more electricity than they consume themselves, are setting new benchmarks.

Repower has decided to sponsor the world's first solar prize for plusenergy buildings (the Norman Foster Award) to help innovation achieve the breakthrough and encourage building contractors and architects to engage with these new approaches. "This also underscores our clear desire to help shape an intelligent energy future," explains Felix Vontobel.
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