Are solar modules on mountain tops a solution for power shortages in winter?
A Swiss study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that solar modules on snow-capped peaks can play an important role in reducing the gap between demand and production during the winter months.
In Switzerland there is a ban on new nuclear power plants and the existing plants, today accounting for no less than 35% of energy production, will be gradually disposed of. To fill this gap, renewable energy sources such as the sun and wind will be used. Unfortunately, today these sources account for only 5% of total Swiss energy production.
Halve the energy deficit
That is why researchers from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale of Lausanne started looking for innovative ways to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix. For example, installing solar modules on mountain tops should help to close the gap. Theoretically, solar modules should be able to absorb more solar energy at a high altitude because less solar radiation is absorbed by the thinner atmosphere at higher altitudes. Furthermore, the tops of the mountains in the Swiss Alps often rise above the cloud cover during the winter months, while snow-covered peaks reflect some of the solar energy.
According to the first calculations, the strategic placement of solar modules in high-altitude, snow-covered regions could halve the energy shortage during the winter months. “And that is probably an underestimation”, one of the researchers adds. “The study did not take into account any low temperatures at high altitudes, but as a general conscience, solar modules generate more energy in a colder environment.”
On the theoretical level there are no noteworthy obstacles. But what about the practical aspect? “In the Alps there is already a lot of infrastructure today that can be used to install photovoltaic modules”, one of the researchers reacts. “We have many hydropower plants that already have access to road infrastructure and are connected to the electricity grid. This allows the produced solar energy to be immediately fed into the grid. ”