Picture: Solarskilift Tenna. http://www.skilift-tenna.ch
Facing higher energy costs and threatens of climate change, cableways companies have to invest on the middle and long term in energy saving and/or energy production program. Several resorts have already realized innovative projects such as a solar ski lift or an energy independent restaurant at 3880m. With an energetic effectiveness and high potential in renewable energies in alpine areas, cableways can reduce their dependence to atomic energy and therefor meet with the Federal government will of closing down nuclear centrals before 2050.
Swiss Cableways and energy
Swiss Cableways are conscious of their responsibility of their energy use. Their global need of energy per year is about 183 GWh, which represents about 0.27% of the Swiss electricity production. 55% is used especially for the cableways themselves, the artificial snow uses 32% and the rest is consumed by the other service suppliers in the resorts.
According to the Swiss Cableways association, energy costs are second after the staff cost for the majority of the cableways companies. In a study published in 2010 , the potential energy economy is about 15%.
Natural energy resources
For cableways companies, the first step of an improved energetic management is about using energy in an effective way. During the last ten years, energy consumed has already been reduced. The second step is about energetic strategy. Thanks to their geographic situation, cableways companies have access to different natural and renewable energy resources: solar, hydraulic and aeolian.
The remuneration at cost price of the injected current in the electricity network gave a new impulse at the Swiss market of solar energy. As a new technology, solar energy is a growing market, especially in Europe. As well, the Swiss government is seeking rejection of the nuclear energy before 2050 . The potential of solar energy is thus a really interesting and dynamic market and local governments grant subsidies for people or companies who want to produce some solar energy.
The example of the solar ski lift of positive energy in Tenna
Inaugurated on the 17th of December 2011, the solar ski lift situated Tenna in Graubunden is the first one of its kind in the world. Annually, its energy production capacity should produce 90’000 kWh more than four times the energy needed by the ski lift itself. The ability of producing more energy than needed is called positive energy. The surplus of energy is injected in the network and could provide energy for more than 150 Swiss homes for a year! It also allows an economy of 48.1 tons of CO2 emission per year.
The amount of sunshine in Tenna, the automatic orientation of the solar panels and their slopes to clear away the snow provide an optimal seizure of the sunlight.
The cableway company renewed the existing infrastructure and integrated a solar installation without occupying the surrounding space.
The solar ski lift in Tenna received the Swiss Solar Price in 2012 .
Others examples of solar technology within the cableways can be provided.
In Zermatt, cableway company Zermatt Bergbahnen AG opened the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at a height of 3’883m in 2009. The all south outward appearance is covered with photovoltaic panels covering 170sqm. The installation produces 37’000kWh a year enough to cover the entire need of the building, any surplus being injected in the cableway electricity network.
The summit itself is dragging more than half a million visitors a year.
As well, in the resort of Bellwald in Wallis, the local cableway company with the help of local authorities and Greenpeace installed some solar panels on avalanche barriers. As a pilot project, the quantity of energy produced is minimal. For the next two year, the performances of the installation will be studied as well as its social impact. Indeed, the proximity of the cableways allows a public exposure.
Solar energy is a very young technology and it develops quickly. Prices are decreasing as fast as 5% a year, encouraging people and industries to invest on the long term. The investment gets really interesting if a zero energy, when a building or installation is energetically independent, or even better a positive energy, when a building or installation produces more than its own needs, is reached.
As well, sustainable energy is a real increase in value in term of marketing. As much as it has an impact on the local economy and on the local population, it also impacts on the visitors’ mind. Indeed, nowadays, some people are sensitive to places who offer a reasonable impact on the nature. At term, resorts might be able to provide an energetic autonomy holiday package.
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Fédération Suisse du Tourisme. (2012). Poser les jalons d’un développement durable. Retrieved from http://www.swisstourfed.ch/index.cfm?parents_id=1027
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