New plans for Swiss lake to be transformed into floating solar farm

New plans for Swiss lake to be transformed into floating solar farm

Authorities in Canton Bern have submitted a proposal that would transform a Swiss lake into a giant solar farm. The project would see a floating solar power plant built on the Bielersee, which could provide up to a quarter of Switzerland's energy needs.

Threat of energy shortages continues to loom large in Switzerland

Over the last few months, the threat of energy shortages, power-saving plans and other global economic shocks have called Switzerland’s energy strategy into question. According to 20 minuten, despite the crisis being contained in 2022, many in the government at both the federal and cantonal levels are looking into ways to reduce the country’s reliance on energy imported from abroad.

The newspaper noted that one of the ways to reduce reliance on imports is to increase the production of renewable energy in Switzerland. Indeed, a report by the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) in June found that the alpine nation was not exploiting its wind and solar power potential.

New floating solar power plant proposed on Bielersee

To help the country increase its domestic power output, a Swiss international company, Energie Zukunft Schweiz (Energy Future Switzerland) has proposed to build a new floating solar power plant on the Bielersee in Canton Bern. Interestingly, Switzerland already has a floating solar farm in operation, with a small project up and running on the Lac des Toules reservoir in Canton Valais.

According to 20 minuten, a quarter of Switzerland’s energy needs could be satisfied if just 5 percent of the lake’s area was covered with solar panels - amounting to around 2 square kilometres. While the exact location of the project is yet to be finalised, the company said that it will be much cheaper to build than current plans to cover all houses with solar panels, and that “initial studies show that there are no negative consequences for aquatic ecology."

Solar power plant would reduce Switzerland's reliance on imports

A pilot project based on the proposal has now been submitted to the cantonal authorities in Bern. The plan involves constructing a solar power plant on the lake that would run for 30 years. It would then be dismantled “easily, quickly and without leaving any permanent traces in the landscape.”

The politicians that submitted the plan argued that other renewable energy projects will take too long to implement, and that floating solar farms could solve the country's energy shortages in the short and medium term. They noted the war in Ukraine has shown Switzerland's fossil fuel dependency “in all its severity” and that greener forms of energy are needed as soon as possible.

Officials in Bern to move forward with floating power plant

The proposal also seems to have gone down well with Bern's Government Council, which told 20 minuten that it was “ready to clarify the legal issues and the feasibility" associated with the project. "The Government Council is aware of the issue of security of supply in the winter due to foreign dependency," adding that developing solar farms like the one on the Bielersee are “central” to their strategy.

However, the government said that it wanted to make sure that legal, environmental and planning permission is formalised before any decision is made. Nevertheless, in the end, the government recommended that the canton accept the proposal, which will be voted on in the coming weeks.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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