In summer 2021, Axpo and energy supplier IWB will begin construction of the largest alpine solar plant on the Muttsee dam at an altitude of 2,500 metres [above sea level]. Denner, the largest discount supermarket group in Switzerland, has contracted all the generated alpine solar power for a term of 20 years. With the pioneering 2.2-megawatt project, Axpo and IWB are driving the expansion of renewable energies in Switzerland and producing vital power during the winter months.
In winter, Switzerland produces significantly less power than it consumes, resulting in the need for energy imports. The situation will only intensify in the upcoming years as the country takes its nuclear power plants off-grid.
This makes it important to find solutions that produce additional power in winter from renewable sources. The large-scale alpine power plant in the Swiss Alps will make a sizeable contribution to these efforts, generating 50 per cent of its output during the winter.
This is the first time in Switzerland that a large-scale solar plant has been developed as part of a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA). In Europe, PPAs are already commonplace as companies increasingly set ambitious sustainability goals to meet their energy needs from renewable sources. Axpo is one of the leading providers of long-term PPAs in Europe and the USA, with more than 15 years’ experience.
Achieving the energy transition depends on the construction of many more large-scale, renewable energy plants like AlpinSolar in the upcoming years. Unfortunately, there is little sign of such developments in Switzerland. This is because the current subsidy framework is designed for small plants for self-consumption only. Today, large-scale plants are an economic risk. This is also likely to be the case for AlpinSolar.
However, in view of the importance of the project for the energy transition and winter electricity production, Axpo and IWB have decided to go ahead despite the risk. The energy suppliers hope to gain experience in the construction of this type of plant, collect data for research, and set an example for the whole of Switzerland, especially to politicians. In addition, with Denner they have found a power consumer that, under its sustainability strategy, is prepared to pay a price that will cover the high investment costs for the plant