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Highest wind turbine completed

A ceremony to mark the completion of what claims to be Europe’s highest wind turbine, at over 2,400 meters above sea level, has been held in the southern canton of Valais.

Energy minister Doris Leuthard attended the topping out celebration on Friday near the Gries dam, close to the border with Italy.

“Canton Valais is making an important step towards a renewable future,” she said.

The turbine, which cost SFr5.5 million ($6 million), is due to start generating power at the beginning of 2012. It will produce three gigawatt hours per year, enough for about 800 households. A further four or five turbines are to be added in the next few years.

Erecting a turbine at such an altitude posed unusual technical problems. The 35-metre long blades had to be taken to the site up the winding road to the Nufenen pass on a special articulated vehicle nicknamed the “millipede”.

Given the extreme cold to which it will be exposed in winter, it has a heating system – which uses very little energy - to keep the blades snow and ice free.

The designers say that numerous feasibility studies showed that the turbine will have little impact on the fauna and flora, and that it will be well integrated into the environment.

Its location near the Gries dam means that it will benefit from existing connections into the grid. and agencies

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