Having energy without burdening the world has been the great goal of entrepreneur and scientist Prof. Dr. Urs Weidmann for over 40 years. And he has come a long way to achieve this.
Urs Weidmann laid the foundations for his energy solution in the middle of the oil crisis, after graduating from high school in 1974. The fact that Switzerland was 70 percent dependent on oil at the time shook him up and prompted him to search for a better, more reliable source of energy. That is why he studied electrical engineering at ETH Zurich and became assistant to the director and research assistant at the Paul Scherrer Institute. At the Research Centre for Natural and Engineering Sciences, it was his job to decide where the Swiss taxes could be used optimally in energy research.
After four years, Weidmann concluded that, firstly, nuclear energy has no future in Switzerland for economic reasons and, secondly, that the energy industry can be better influenced through funding than through science.
He joined Credit Suisse in 1983, completed his third training in banking, travelled to America and built the world’s first large geothermal power plant.
Back in Switzerland, he found out that researchers in the country are working on his life’s work on «replacing oil», but, in his opinion, too one-sidedly. Even today, hydrogen is almost without exception the focus of research. Weidmann, on the other hand, believes that methanol, a far less dangerous energy carrier, is a far better alternative to hydrogen in terms of handling, storage and transport.
At the end of the 1990s, the own idea of implementing a CO2-neutral energy cycle based on methanol was still too expensive. It was only the reactor accident in Fukushima and the turnaround in energy policy that gave Silent-Power the necessary impetus to found the company. So Weidmann opened its laboratory in Cham in 2002 and has already had CHF 34 million invested by the end of 2019, always with the aim of revolutionising the energy industry by switching to methanol (M99). At the heart of this is the «Econimo» mini power station: It converts the liquid energy (M99) into electricity and at the same time produces hot and cold water for the building.
In 2015 he presented the idea of the mini power plant to his investors. Today he looks proudly at his three prototypes, one of which is in commercial operation at the Zug Wasserwerken.
He has already completed important stages: His mini power station is ready for series production and shines in a new design. He has also cleaned up the last flaw: While other countries, such as Qatar or China, produce methanol from natural gas or coal, he is fishing carbon dioxide out of the environment and thus producing synthetic methanol from CO2, water and ecologically generated electricity. This methanol process was discovered by the Hungarian Nobel Prize winner Georg Olah. Since then Weidmann has been advocating methanol as an energy source.
If he can make the «miracle cure» methanol acceptable with his mini power station, then Urs Weidmann has already got concrete plans for the future: To operate all vehicles with this environmentally friendly energy source – from motorbikes to trucks. If he succeeds in making the change, he will be able to turn his 40-year vision of turning away from oil into reality.