The Swiss government introduced measures to fast-track permitting and construction of alpine PV in October 2022. It is set to announce a new incentive scheme for these installations in April 2023. pv magazine spoke with Lionel Bloch, renewable energy project manager at Swiss engineering firm Planair, about the new provisions.
In September 2022, Switzerland made amendments to its Energy Act focusing on urgent measures to secure power supply in winter. The new federal law aims to enable and facilitate the construction of large-scale ground-mounted PV systems in the Swiss Alps, 1,500 meters or higher above sea level.
Details on the law have so far been scarce. Ahead of the official publication expected for April 2023, co-author of the IEA-PVPS Task 1 report on PV applications in Switzerland, Lionel Bloch, told pv magazine the “idea is to really focus on winter PV production because in Switzerland we have better system yield (kWh/kWp) in the mountains than at lower altitudes, where there is a high concentration of clouds.”
The measures will purportedly incentivize alpine PV projects with an annual energy production of at least 10 GWh, equivalent to an installed capacity of at least 8 MW, according to Bloch.
The Swiss government will purportedly provide subsidies for up to 60% of the installation costs of eligible projects. “This includes the costs for cables, which can be very expensive in alpine PV,” said Bloch. “Costs for these alpine projects are around CHF 6 ($6.47)/W, compared to about CHF 1.2/W for urbane installations. With these very high subsidies, it can still be profitable for the owner.”
To classify for the subsidy, the projects must show a winter yield of at least 500 kWh/kWp, which Bloch says is most likely in alpine conditions. To meet this requirement, developers will probably focus on vertical PV installations and exploit the higher albedo of bifacial modules.
The winter yield will most likely be measured over a period of three years, says Bloch. “There is a risk involved for project owners because if the yield condition isn’t met, the subsidy isn’t paid – but the law can also change.”
The Swiss government aims to reach 2 TWh of alpine PV production with the incentive scheme.
In September 2022, Swiss energy company Axpo commissioned a 2.2 MW vertical alpine PV project on the Muttsee Dam, almost 2,500 meters above sea level.