The PV centre will be financed by Romande through its subsidiary, Romande Energie Renouvelable.

Under the partnership Romande will make available its experience and know-how in the design, use and marketing of energy, thereby fulfilling its intention to become involved in ambitious R&D programmes relating to renewable energy production.

The building project is coupled with a strategic partnership in the field of energy innovation. Part of the solar power station will be used for research and development by the numerous EPFL laboratories active in this field (architectural integration of collectors, technologies for thin film or nanocomposite coated solar cells, and energy storage and distribution). This part of the photovoltaic centre will operate as a research and demonstration laboratory, reflecting the formidable growth of these soft technologies.

This new photovoltaic installation, which is now the largest of its type in Switzerland, will serve as a window for today’s cutting-edge technologies and the potential of future developments. It will be located on the roofs of EPFL buildings and cover around 20,000 m2. The centre will come on stream over a period of three years (2009, 2010 and 2011) with around 6,000 m2 becoming operational each year. The construction of the research and demonstration site (2,000 m2) will mark the completion of the first stage of the project in 2009. This power station, with a capacity in excess of 2 megawatt, will be commissioned in the course of 2009. Ultimately, it will generate over 2 million kWh a year.

In addition to making its facilities available for this project, the EPFL has undertaken to use a quarter of the electricity produced; this would represent sufficient energy for outside lighting in the public areas of the campus for a whole year The remainder of this green energy (which bears the naturemade star label and meets the strictest European quality standards in the field), will be supplied by Romande Energie as part of its Eco-énergétique product line.

The total cost, estimated at CHF20 million, will be paid by Romande. This investment is consistent with the company’s objective to step up its production of green energy to 250 million kWh by 2020-2025.

More generally, the photovoltaic project is in keeping with the missions defined by Romande for the Environment business unit it established on February 1, 2008.

These include cooperating with the universities on R&D programmes, investing in decentralized production units that exploit renewable energy sources (mini hydraulics, wind, solar and biomass), promoting energy efficiency and managing Romande Energie’s hydraulic production.

This partnership relating to the promotion and development of solar energy is likely to be expanded further at a later stage and may be supplemented by other cooperation agreements, in particular with Lausanne University.