Initiatives: Local action
for renewable energy

An innovative solar installation involving Geneva authorities and the US Mission is saving up to 20% of electricity costs.

Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor

Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor

Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva.

Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor is the 17th United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. He was sworn in on 12 June 2006, after being confirmed by unanimous consent in vote of the full Senate on 26 May 2006.

US Mission / Geneva energy supplier

Solar partnership at US Mission

A State Department instruction to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut rising energy costs spurred the US Mission in Geneva to «retrofit» its seven-story building with integrated solar panels that reduce power consumption and feed «green» energy directly to the local electricity grid.

On July 5, 2005 the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva became the first American diplomatic post with a building-integrated solar energy system. The State Department's office of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has a long-standing commitment to the sustainability of the future environment through the design and construction of green embassies around the world. We are delighted that OBO Director, General Charles E. Williams, chose Geneva for this flagship photovoltaic project. The possibility of highlighting the pivotal role of technology and of public-private partnerships in addressing energy and environmental challenges was a key factor in the choice of Geneva. Another was this city's prominence as an international diplomatic center. Our Mission plays host to thousands of international delegates each year, allowing us to showcase the latest in green energy technologies to a uniquely influential audience.

The installation of some 950 square meters of crystalline-blue photovoltaic arrays across the Mission's rooftops, along its walls, and over its windows has made this the largest building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system in the State of Geneva, and one of the largest in Switzerland. Our design team worked to ensure that every surface that receives adequate sunlight was used to full advantage. One of the distinctive features of our solar energy architecture is the «sunshade arrays» that jut out from the walls and cast shadows over the windows. The angle of the panels is specially designed not only to optimize the collection of energy from the sun, but also to reduce overall energy consumption by shading and cooling the interior of the building.

A partnership with US and local enterprises and Geneva energy authorities is reducing carbon emissions and putting power into the local grid.

At peak capacity, our system produces enough electricity to power 37 average homes for a year. It is designed to save up to 20% of the mission's electricity costs and pay for itself well before the end of its useful life. I'm proud to say that our solar energy system is exceeding our performance expectations. Since we put the system into operation, it has generated an average of 366 kilowatt-hours per day. Over its expected life span of 30 years, the system is projected to produce an emissions savings of approximately 1,800 tonnes of CO2.

At the center of our project is a unique Swiss and American privatepublic sector partnership that brings together the U.S. Mission, the Energy Service of the State of Geneva (ScanE) and the local utility Services Industriels de Geneve (SIG). Rather than storing power in batteries for onsite use, we have instead become a provider of green energy under Geneva's «Vitale-Verte» program. We send electricity directly to Geneva's grid, taking advantage of the green-power rate offered by SIG as an incentive for producers of renewable energy. As a gesture of encouragement, ScanE contributed to the cost of integrating the solar energy panels with the building.

Being good stewards of the environment by reducing energy consumption is extremely important. In many countries, including the United States, buildings are the largest consumers of energy, surpassing industry and transportation. That is why we've installed low-energy lighting and automatic light timers throughout the Mission.

And we're not about to rest on our laurels. Our next step for the US Mission will be to install a new, cutting-edge cooling system. Its highly efficient compressor uses magnetic levitation instead of ball bearings and petroleum lubricants. This new technology will reduce our energy consumption for cooling by at least 30%. This means we will help protect the environment while saving taxpayer dollars at the same time.

But governments alone cannot ensure energy security, energy efficiency, and environmental protection. Product development and project management require private sector expertise. Financing requires private capital. That's why we put a high priority on publicprivate partnerships.

Our solar power project in Geneva is a prime example of such a partnership. We could not have done it without the American and Swiss companies that designed and installed our solar power system. And we could not have done it without the dedicated participation of ScanE and SIG. We are convinced that such partnerships can help provide a solid foundation for building a truly sustainable energy future.