Switzerland installs 5,000 solar panels on Europe's highest dam

It will produce three times more energy in winter months.
Ameya Paleja
Solar panels installed on the wall of the highest dam in Europe
Solar panels installed on the wall of the highest dam in Europe


AlpinSolar, a joint venture between three Swiss companies, has successfully completed installing 5,000 solar panels on the Lake Muttsee Dam in Switzerland, Reuters reported. Located at 8,202 feet (2,500 m) above sea level, this is the highest dam in Europe, and energy production has already begun.

With a project like AlpinSolar, the Swiss have just begun their large-scale transition from nuclear power to green energy, as planned in 2011. Interesting Engineering has previously reported how Switzerland built a massive 'water battery' to store its renewable energy.

Sun and snow generate more energy

The Lake Muttsee Dam is located in the Swiss canton of Glarus, surrounded by snow-clad peaks. The project aims to generate 3.3 million kilowatts annually to power 700 homes.

For this, 5,000 solar panels have been lined up against the wall of the dam, which is also the home to a hydroelectric power plant. The width of the solar panel installation is 0.62 miles (one km) wide, and the array is designed to generate 2.2 megawatts of electricity.

For the project, Axpo, an energy firm in the joint venture, used bifacial glass-glass solar modules manufactured by another Swiss company Megasol. Equipped with 1.5-inch (40 mm) frames, the panels can handle the snow load expected in the Swiss Alps.

Although installing solar panels in snow-clad mountains might seem counter-intuitive, Axpo expects them to work better in these regions, especially in the winter. This is because, unlike the lower altitudes, which are dominated by fog in winter months, the Sun shines brightly at higher altitudes in Switzerland.

An added benefit is the white snow, which reflects the sunlight onto the solar panels which also generates higher yields when working at lower temperatures. Through this, Axpo expects to generate three times as much energy from the Sun in winter months, such as February and March, when compared to the rest of the year.

Over the coming years, plans to build 4,200 solar projects in the country's low-lying and mountainous regions. Last year, the Swiss government amended its Energy Act to enable faster approvals for new solar plants in the country, Reuters said in its report.

Denner, a discount chain also part of the AlpinSolar, has signed a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with the project. Interestingly, this is the first PPA to be signed in the country, Electrek reported.

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