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Solar energy to power Swiss football

The future Wankdorf stadium with its solar power installation. solarstadion.ch

The sun may have failed to shine on Switzerland’s Euro 2004 campaign, but the nation’s footballers will be looking to harness its energy now they are back on home soil.

This content was published on June 25, 2004 - 20:03

The largest solar panel ever mounted on a football ground is being built at the new national stadium, currently under construction in Bern.

The main part of the building work was officially completed on Friday and the stadium is on schedule to be inaugurated 400 days from now.

Half of the roof has been finished, and work has now begun on the inside of the site.

The stadium complex will house offices, shops, apartments and two schools. Around 80 per cent of the office and commercial space has already been rented out.

Initial scepticism

The solar installation on the roof itself is costing SFr10 million ($8 million) and will produce enough power to cover the annual energy consumption of around 300 households.

“It is a pioneering project, and we hope to be able to give solar energy a boost,” said Sebastian Vogler, a spokesman of BKW FMB Energy, which is behind the project.

The company is Switzerland’s leading producer of solar energy. It also operates the country’s biggest solar power station in the northwestern Jura mountains.

Vogler told swissinfo that the scheme faced a fair bit of scepticism when it was first touted – from both the stadium owners and nearby residents.

But the project has the stamp of approval from the main promoters of solar energy in western Switzerland.

“It will become a landmark because of its sheer size,” said Jacques Bonvin of Courant Vert.

“People don’t really need to be persuaded [of the benefits of solar power]; what is far more difficult is to get the message across to politicians,” he added.

Pioneers

Switzerland has been at the forefront of solar energy in Europe for the past 20 years. The first house with solar panels was built in the southern Ticino region in 1982.

Efforts to promote solar energy have also gained ground in other European countries, as well as in China and Japan.

Portugal plans to put the world’s biggest solar power station on line in 2009, built at a cost of €250million (SFr379 million) and creating 1,150 jobs.

The project at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf is a little more modest, but it will produce more than one megawatt of energy and set a new record: it will be the world’s biggest solar installation at a sports facility.

Showcase project

BKW FMB Energy plans to use it as a showcase for the economic, technical and environmental benefits of solar energy.

An estimated 12-15,000 people a day are expected to visit the stadium, its restaurants, shops and conference rooms.

The installation is being completed in two stages. During the first phase, around 8,000 square metres of solar panels will produce a maximum of 850 kilowatts.

The second stage will see a further 4,000 square metres of panels added, generating an additional 450 kilowatts.

Details of the sales strategy for “1to1 Energy Sun Star” have yet to be announced, but the company said it already had pledges from more than 50 interested parties to buy solar energy.

swissinfo, Pierre-François Besson (translation: Urs Geiser)

Key facts

The inauguration of the new national stadium in Bern is scheduled for July 31, 2005.
It is one of several venues for the European football championships to be staged jointly by Switzerland and Austria in 2008.
The stadium, which includes the world’s biggest solar panel on a sports facility, will be operational from May next year.

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