The study by EPFL’s Cryospheric Science Laboratory (Cryos) was exclusively based on meteorology (sunlight, wind speed, etc.) and satellite data. This shows that there is a “real opportunity”, including economic, to install solar panels in the Alps.
“During the winter there is intense sunlight and existing power networks connected to the production of hydraulic energy can be used to carry this energy to the plains”, explains study co-author and CRYOS Laboratory Director Michael Lehning Huh. , Quoted in an EPFL press release. This solution can also be used for wind turbines in alpine environments, the actual potential of which is still “hidden” due to the topographic complexity of the Alps, it continues.
According to the scientist, public officials should be interested in these various opportunities in an Alpine environment. He estimates that by combining solar panels with existing hydropower, Switzerland’s dependence on the energy of neighboring countries can be reduced by 80% during the winter.
On the other hand, studies show that the installation of large-scale solar panels on the roofs of cities is not relevant. In question: It is very cloudy in the cold season.
In terms of wind turbines, the Jura is considered the most interesting area, with “uninhabited areas that still have a lot of potential,” the statement continued. The field alone represents 40% of the installations recommended by the CRYOS model. Then comes the Alps and the Pre-Alps.
Installation of wind turbines in these various regions and solar panels in the Alps, with current hydraulic energy, is the most effective solution for achieving carbon neutrality and energy autonomy in Switzerland, assuring researchers of the associated ‘EPFL’ for the occasion . Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
“We know this scenario is provocative. However, we wanted to bring reflection to the end to show the most effective way, even if it seems radical, while knowing that the political world will choose a middle ground”, Jerome Notes Dujardin, the first author of the study.
The model was developed keeping in mind the questions of Swiss topography, microclimate and even hydraulic energy storage. Other parameters have been added such as keeping a minimum distance of 500 meters between the new wind turbine and houses, avoiding glaciers, steep slopes, forests and national parks and, in relation to solar signs, a northward slope.
EPFL notes, “This method is first able to take into account so many elements and to be able to identify the relevance of renewable energy by place across the region, and thus be applied in other countries “, Notes EPFL. This work, supported by the Swiss National Fund and the Federal Office of Energy, was published in the journal “Environmental Research Paper”.