A complete nuclear phase-out has also been decided in Switzerland. Unlike in Germany, however, no power plants are switched off prematurely, but the permissible operating time is simply no longer extended. In addition, no new nuclear reactors are built. Nevertheless, in Switzerland, too, the question arises as to how nuclear power can be replaced. Basically, solar energy offers a cheap alternative. But it also has two major drawbacks: relatively large areas are needed and most of the electricity is generated in the summer – while demand is highest in winter. A team of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has now investigated an alternative: solar modules in the high mountains above the winter snow line.
These are the advantages of solar modules in the mountains
The calculations showed that the productivity of the modules is increasing there. There are three main reasons for this:
1. The higher the altitude, the less sunlight is swallowed by the atmosphere.
2. In winter, there are significantly fewer clouds in the mountains than in the lowlands.
3. The sunlight is also reflected by the snow and thus passed once more onto the solar cells.
In order to be able to use the last effect particularly effectively, smaller adjustments have to be made. So the modules are to be installed with a slope of 65 degrees. For comparison: On the flat land, a pitch angle of 37 degrees is usually used. Theoretically, it would even be conceivable to mount the modules directly completely vertically. As a result, production drops slightly, but there is no snow left on the solar cells.
The amount of required area drops significantly
Ultimately, the researchers come to the conclusion that by going up into the high mountains enormous space can be saved. For example, if half of the electricity produced by nuclear power today is to be replaced by solar energy, about 57 square kilometers would be needed in the lowlands – but only 47 square kilometers above the winter snow line. In addition, the reflection through the snow ensures that electricity production remains high even in winter and thus adapts better to the demand. However, the study still left out the question of how such a project would affect the environment and the ecosystem in the mountainous regions. The researchers merely pointed out that as a rule, it is possible to build on the already existing infrastructure. Further studies should provide even more detailed information on this point.
Via: Pacific Standard