Meet The World’s First Solar Wing-Powered Ski Lift!

26 Feb, 2012

Tenna is a very small town in the Safien valley in canton Graubündenthat in Eastern Switzerland that counts with only 112 inhabitants. In 2009, when it was time to restore their outdated lift, this agricultural village’s population opted for solar power as the ski lift’s primary energy source, mainly because solar panels have already been installed on most of the homes’ and stables’ rooftops in town.

Thus, by December 2011, the world’s first ski lift, which is 450 meters long and extends 1,640 feet up the mountain, started operating in Tenna, Switzerland. Since the lift station’s roof was not big enough to hold all the panels needed, it was decided to build the solar panels on the lift itself as a string of photovoltaic “wings” that float above the chairs. The wings, or panels, rotate according to the sun’s position and tilt to perpendicular when it is necessary to remove the excess snow covering them during storms, allowing it to maximize its energy production. These innovative characteristics have made Tenna’s endeavor unique and the first one of its kind in the world.

The lift is expected to produce more than 90,000 kilowatts per year, when only 25,000 kilowatts are consumed by the lift during the 3 months it runs in winter. On sunny days, the lift produces twice the amount of energy it consumes. So, the excess energy is sent back to the local electricity grid, from which the ski lift takes it’s the extra energy it needs when, on cloudy days, the solar energy its panels’ produce isn’t enough to fully power itself. During the months of spring and summer however, the ski lift’s solar energy panels work as an alternative source of energy.

Although Tenna’s inhabitants knows this new idea will unlikely bring new skiers to their small farming town and the costs of this new ski lift are estimated to be around $1.5 million, it hopes to be an inspiration to the world to find alternative sources of energy that are eco-friendly. Can it inspire us to follow Tenna’s footsteps and apply this new and green technology to the numerous ski resorts in Quebec?

 

If you are curious about how it looks like and want to meet some villagers, follow this link to watch a nice video about it!

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/multimedia/video/Solar_side_of_skiing.html?cid=31918780

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