When Genève Aéroport wanted an innovate new way to cool and heat its terminal building, it didn’t have to look far – at the other end of the airport is CERN, the European Nuclear Research Agency and home of the large hadron collider.

But the famous Higgs boson particle experiment is not the only thing the team at CERN do, its researchers also developed the technology behind ultra-high vacuum solar panels. These panels, built by SRB Energy and financed with Genève Aéroport assistance, produce around 600 MWh worth of heat each year by capturing the energy of the sun. 

Unlike traditional solar panels, these don’t convert the sun’s rays into electricity, but capture the energy in a special high-temperature fluid. The 282 panels are connected to the main heating/cooling system of the airport. In the summer, the thermal fluid is heated to 130°C and injected into an absorption machine to cool the buildings of the airport.

During the spring and the autumn, the fluid is heated to 90°C and injected into the main building heating system. During the winter, the thermal fluid is heated to 40°C and is used directly for the heating of the building on which the panels are installed.

The funding and use of these panels is just one part of Genève Aéroport’s climate strategy. The airport is also home to 8,900 m2 of traditional photovoltaic solar panels.

It is pushing passengers and staff to use public transport – the airport authority funds around 2,000 free public transport tickets a day for arriving passengers.

Another project has gradually equipped 36 of the airport’s stands with fixed electrical ground power which removes the need for aircraft to run on-board generators when on the ground. This leads to an annual saving of 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, as well as 52 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOX), and less noise on the airport site.