VERTICAL PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER STATIONS ON ALPINE DAMS
Axpo, a utility based in baden, is building a 2-megawatt facility at the Muttsee reservoir in Glarus, Switzerland.The plant is expected to achieve high levels of power generation, particularly throughout the winter.
Several studies have shown that photovoltaic systems built in mountainous areas can generate large amounts of electricity even in winter.Axpo, a Swiss firm, wants to prove this by building a two-megawatt power plant on the dam wall of the Muttsee reservoir, nearly 2,500m above sea level.The company also plans to submit the project to the Swiss federal energy agency as an innovation project.
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Sutter said the site was ideal because the dam faces south and is connected to the power grid.The elevation is also a factor in boosting solar power, he says.The company expects the entire system to generate about half of its annual output in winter — about a quarter of the output of a similar-sized plant in a year’s time, compared with Switzerland’s relatively flat, lowland locations.
High-altitude projects have several advantages, and the lack of fog is one of them, because clear skies mean more solar radiation.In addition to their advantage of generating more power when it snows, these components are also more efficient at low temperatures.
Switzerland consumes far more electricity in winter than it produces.As many large power plants in Switzerland and other countries start to go off-grid, buying power in the winter months will predictably become harder in the coming years.
In recent years, the country has built a number of photovoltaic systems on the Swiss plateau, but they have not been effective in solving the problem of winter electricity use.But Axpo believes high-altitude photovoltaic systems could support the Swiss government’s energy strategy for 2050.
Andy Heiz, the company’s head of power generation and grid, said: “we’ve found that photovoltaic facilities do produce a lot of electricity.Of course, it will take more than a power plant on the Muttsee dam to make a real difference.We have to deploy photovoltaic projects where they are not part of the protected area and have been properly developed.And political and economic preconditions must also be met.”
The latest research by the federal institute for snow and avalanche research (SLF), part of the Swiss federal institute for forest, snow and landscape (WSL), and the Swiss federal polytechnic institute in lausanne, highlights the potential of high mountain photovoltaic systems.The researchers say such systems could help mitigate the seasonal drop in power generation during the winter due to fog, cloudy weather and lower solar radiation levels.
Romande Energie, a Swiss power provider, recently built a 448-kilowatt floating solar array on lake Lac des Toules, 1,810 meters above sea level, in the Swiss Alps.
Swissolar, the country’s photovoltaic industry association, said this week that the country needed 50 gigawatts of cumulative photovoltaic capacity to meet its future electricity needs and replace fossil fuels in the process of phasing out nuclear power.That is 25 times more solar capacity than the country has installed so far.
David Stickelberger, managing director of Swissolar, said: “we need 40 to 45 terawatt hours of solar energy a year, most of which can be met through rooftop and facade projects.”
However, the federal council and the federal parliament must create appropriate conditions to facilitate the deployment of additional photovoltaic systems, particularly on buildings.