Wankdorf gets energy boost from the Sun

Flat out on the roof: the Wankdorf's new solar panels Keystone

The world’s biggest solar power installation ever mounted at a sports facility has been inaugurated at Bern’s new Wankdorf stadium.

This content was published on May 6, 2005 - 12:24

The stadium itself will use the lion’s share of the power generated, but the installation’s panels should also be able to supply electricity to 200 households, albeit at a much higher price than they normally pay.

Swiss president Samuel Schmid described the panels as a symbol of "technological innovation", adding that he hoped the rest of the country would follow Bern’s example.

BKW FMB Energy, which is behind the project, says the solar power installation is the largest ever built on a stadium and the biggest in the country. It cost SFr7 million ($5.86 million).

The 8,000 square metres of panels should be enough to provide electricity for 200 households. If there is sufficient demand, annual power output could be boosted by 50 per cent by adding more panels.

The main customer for the solar power is the stadium itself. Electricity produced at the Wankdorf will be the cheapest unsubsidised solar energy in Switzerland, according to BKW FMB Energy.

Customers who want to use the electricity will have to pay for the privilege. Each kilowatt-hour will set them back SFr0.80, compared with the usual price of SFr0.20. They will however be able to choose how much "clean" energy they want to buy.

Expensive cells

Despite the environmental advantages of solar energy, the high cost remains an obstacle to its widespread use.

"Silicon-based solar cells are relatively expensive, which is why we are trying to develop cheaper ways of making them," said Arvind Shah, a solar cell specialist at Neuchâtel University. "We also need to find ways of speeding up production."

Shah told Swiss radio that the price of cells could drop by up to half in the next few years, which would make solar installations more economically feasible.

"Solar energy could account for ten per cent of electricity production in ten to 20 years’ time," he added.

BKW FMB Energy has also opened an information and meeting centre that sits above the stadium roof. The power company is already the operator of the country’s now second-biggest solar installation on Mont-Soleil in the Jura mountains.

It also owns a wind-powered production facility in the same area and operates the Mühleberg nuclear reactor near Bern.

The stadium complex, which will be inaugurated on July 31, will house offices, shops, apartments and two schools.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The new solar facility on Bern's Wankdorf stadium is Switzerland's biggest.
It covers 8,000 square metres, and can produce enough energy to power 200 households.
The solar panels cost SFr7 million.

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In brief

Only 0.1 per cent of all electricity produced in Switzerland today is solar-based.

Around 8,000 facilities like the one built at the Wankdorf would be needed to equal the output of one nuclear reactor.

To meet the country's entire electricity requirements, it would take 500 square kilometres of solar panels, twice the area of canton Geneva.

Solar electricity costs five times more than hydraulic or nuclear power.

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