Axpo is significantly expanding its solar ambitions in Switzerland. By the year 2030, the company intends to develop solar capacities of over 1.2 gigawatts in the Alps and residential areas. The plants will produce enough electricity to cover the annual consumption of over 300,000 Swiss households. Upon completion of the plant at the Muttsee dam, planning of the next alpine solar facility is already underway. The solar offensive will make a valuable contribution to sustainable, reliable power supply, particularly during the winter months. One important reason for expanding ambitions is the temporary simplification of the political framework conditions for alpine installations.
On the one hand, the offensive foresees solar plants on infrastructure and the ground in the Alps, and, on the other hand, ambitious projects in residential areas, for example roof-top systems on industrial buildings and homes, as well as ground-mounted plants. The new goal signifies a six-fold increase from currently 0.2 gigawatts to over 1.2 gigawatts by the year 2030. This corresponds to an annual production of about 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours or the yearly consumption of over 300,000 average Swiss households. Axpo estimates investments of approx. 1.5 billion francs for the expansion.
"We are very pleased that we can once again invest more in the expansion of power production in Switzerland. The new framework conditions approved by the government, which make these types of investments possible, and higher market prices for electricity enable this offensive," says Axpo CEO Christoph Brand.
Axpo's subsidiary CKW, which is already advancing the energy transition with its parent company and currently installing two solar plants on buildings each day, will implement the plans. CKW draws from the extensive experience and size advantage of Axpo’s French subsidiary Urbasolar, which has been successful with large-scale PV plants on an international scale for many years.
In terms of expansion in the Alps, the first projects are already well advanced. For example, "NalpSolar", a ground-mounted plant with a capacity of 10 MWp, which will be built at the Nalps reservoir in the Canton of Grisons. CKW CEO Martin Schwab: "NalpSolar is another Axpo flagship project. We at CKW are pleased be able to realise this project." Start of construction is scheduled for the spring of 2024 with commissioning in the spring of 2025. From then on, the alpine solar plant will supply urgently needed power, especially during the winter.
The project is unanimously supported by the town council of Tujetsch. Martin Cavegn, the mayor of Tujetsch, is pleased about the economic boost for his town. "According to the feasibility study, the location of the solar plant right next to the Nalps reservoir is ideal. If the environmental impact study is positive, the residents will stand behind the project wholeheartedly. The project will create local added value for the town, and we can make a contribution to the expansion of renewable energies – especially during the winter months."
Axpo has already gained strong experience in the area of alpine solar plants in Switzerland through the AlpinSolar project. Axpo and IWB realised Switzerland's largest solar plant at 2500 metres at the Muttsee in the Canton of Glarus. The plant has been in full operation since the end of August 2022. AlpinSolar produces 3.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year – half of this volume in the winter. The sale of the renewable electricity is ensured through a long-term power purchase agreement with Denner.
Alpine plants located above the fog line can produce about three times more power in the winter as opposed to plants in residential areas. This power is particularly valuable in view of increasing winter shortages. The first experience at the Muttsee since partial commissioning in October 2021 indicates that winter power can be produced on the foreseen scale.
In its fall session, the Federal Parliament created the prerequisites for the fast expansion of ground-mounted PV plants with higher winter production in its “Urgent measures for the short-term provision of reliable power supply in winter" (amendment to the Energy Act). The simplified approval process and additional subsidies will be in force until the end of 2025 or until a total annual production of 2 TWh has been reached. With the urgent measures, the Swiss Parliament has generated a welcome short-term impulse for alpine plants.
More viable framework conditions for the expansion of renewable power production will remain important beyond the year 2025. For example, PV ground-mounted plants will require a solution that goes beyond these urgent measures. In the wake of the blanket ordinance, framework conditions for all renewable energies must be improved to create more momentum for the expansion of domestic power capacities, particularly, the simplification and acceleration of approval processes.
By 2050, Switzerland must develop about 50 terawatt-hours. The Axpo model foresees a mix of various production technologies and a fundamental technology impartiality in order to master this enormous challenge.
More information on Axpo's solar offensive: www.axpo.com/solar-offensive