5000 Solar Panels added to Swiss Dam
High in the cold Swiss Alps, solar energy is proving itself. The Lake Muttsee Dam is the highest-altitude dam in Europe and proving itself not only as a water reservoir and hydroelectric generator but it is now also now producing solar energy.
With all the locations available, why would Switzerland build a solar farm so high in the mountains? It may seem counterintuitive, but solar panels at high altitudes work better than their lower-level counterparts. In winter, they work even better yet.
There are several reasons for the increased performance:
- More Solar energy reaches the panels. The atmosphere at higher altitudes is less, meaning less of the sun’s energy is lost due to the atmosphere’s reduced thickness and cloud cover.
- The air is cooler; electronics of all types like to be kept cool and have better performance when they are. Owners of power systems often spend huge amounts of money on cooling systems; however, the units often experience shorter lifespans. Cooler air temperatures mean better performance and longer life.
- There is more reflected light – especially in winter. Despite “better” weather at lower altitudes, the sheer amount of solar energy reflected from snow and glaciers makes the panels perform even better over the whole year than they might at a sunnier location in the summer months.
Since the power distribution infrastructure from the dam’s hydroelectricity already existed, adding solar to the mix made sense.
The construction on the project was completed late last year, and the panels are already generating electricity, enough to power 700 homes (or more than 3.3 million kWh).
The project, as novel as it is, is only the beginning for Switzerland. As part of a legally mandated phase-out of nuclear power led by referendum in 2017, it intends to install more than 4,200 additional solar power projects in the country by 2030.
The Swiss federal government is fast-tracking the approval process for new solar projects as a part of the decarbonization of Europe’s energy sector, making it even easier for these projects to obtain financing and building permits.