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Green light for first photovoltaic system on avalanche barriers

The Swiss photovoltaics pioneer TRITEC has become involved in the construction of a pilot system designed to generate solar power on existing avalanche barriers. The ideal solar irradiation in high alpine regions holds potential for very high output levels: The research project in the ski region of the Valaisan village of Bellwald will lay the foundation for an economically efficient and ecologically sensible use of photovoltaic systems on avalanche barriers.

Trendsetting pilot project

The building permit was approved by the canton of Valais in late October 2011 – as a result, a new PV system is now being installed on the avalanche barriers found in the ski region of Bellwald. From spring 2012, the system will be one of the first in Switzerland to feed emission-free solar power from an avalanche barrier into the local grid. The power generated will be used locally by the Burgergemeinde Bellwald and the Bellwald sports tracks.

Involvement in cooperation

In cooperation with the Goms energy region, the hydroelectric power company EnAlpin, the company Lauber Iwisa and the Basel School of Metal Construction Engineering, TRITEC has become involved in this project delivering 60 solar modules for the pilot system which is rated for a total output of 12kWp, along with 6 appropriately dimensioned inverters. The power generated (approx. 18000kWh) can be fed into the public grid using an existing line (distance approx. 200m). »EnAlpin is committed to new renewable energies. We will use this pilot system to test whether the avalanche barriers are suitable for the installation of photovoltaic systems,« René Dirren, Director of EnAlpin AG, said.

Green light for first photovoltaic system on avalanche barriers

Alternative for Alpine region

»Switzerland has some 600 running kilometres of avalanche barriers. Even if only half were provided with PV modules,« TRITEC Project Manager Giordano Pauli said, »it would be possible to generate power for over 100,000 households. By way of example, this would cover the Goms energy region along with the Brig, Sion, Visp and Leuk municipalities.«

Ideal local factors

The ski region concerned has an ideal south facing position. Its height of 1800 to 2500m above sea level guarantees 1.5 times the output of the midland. The cold and the snow reflections in winter have a further positive effect on the efficiency of the solar cells and so on the output of the solar system.

2-year test phase

»We want to find out whether this use is relevant, whether it is feasible, and how people would react to such structures in the alpine landscape,« Dionys Hallenbarter from the Goms energy region explains. »As soon as the weather conditions in spring 2012 allow, the modules will be fitted to the avalanche barriers. Once they have been in operation for 2 years, we will then analyse aspects such as which elevation and which type of module – mono- or polycrystalline – achieve a higher yield.«