Multiple sites in Canton Zurich earmarked for new wind turbines

Multiple sites in Canton Zurich earmarked for new wind turbines

For the first time, the government of Canton Zurich has disclosed where it wants to install wind turbines as part of its plan to boost the production of green energy. Up to 120 giant windmills are planned across the canton.

Zurich lagging behind when it comes to wind power

Writing in a statement, the canton noted that “to strengthen the security of supply and protect the climate, domestic, renewable electricity production is to be expanded.” To make this happen, officials confirmed that along with massively expanding solar power production, it would also be building wind turbines.

Currently, while the vast majority of energy produced in Switzerland is from renewables (mainly hydroelectric) and nuclear power, around 70 percent of the country’s energy needs have to be imported, with much of it coming from non-renewable sources. Currently, wind power is not used in Zurich on a large scale, while over 80 percent of the canton’s energy requirements are imported from other Swiss cantons or abroad.

Where will wind turbines be built in Zurich?

Having investigated 52 potential areas for wind turbines, the canton has earmarked 20 sites for immediate construction. The locations being given the green light are mainly in the wine region north of Winterthur and to the west of the Albis hills.

At the same time, 15 areas have also been rated as having great potential for wind power, but still need to fulfil some technical requirements before construction can begin. These include Dietikon and Urdorf, and the Pfannenstiel above the Lake Zurich "Gold Coast" communities of Meilen, Herrliberg, Erlenbach and Küsnacht. In all, the canton hopes to build up to 120, 235-metre high wind turbines, with construction set to start in the 2030s. 

Wind power plan helps further Swiss climate goals, officials argue

In justifying the move, the canton wrote that “wind energy is domestic, climate-neutral and unlimitedly available. Two-thirds of wind energy is produced in the winter months. It is therefore an ideal complement to photovoltaics and hydropower, which produce less in winter - when demand is particularly high.” They argued that by building the wind turbines, it would reduce Switzerland's reliance on imported energy and help meet its climate targets.

As part of the plan, Canton Zurich will also be looking to streamline the planning process, noting that the sometimes 23-year process to get wind projects approved is far too long. “Time is running out to ensure energy supplies,” they concluded, adding that if they were able to build just 70 wind turbines, it would cover around 5 percent of the canton’s energy demands by 2050.

Finally, officials confirmed that it would be looking into using the Rhine Falls to produce power. This underground power plant would use the gradient and up to 20 percent of the waterfalls’ water to generate electricity. However, they noted that this idea is very much in the planning stage.

Swiss parties divided over wind power projects in Zurich

In response to the plan, the Social Democratic Party said that it welcomed the fast construction of new wind turbines, with cantonal councillor Markus Bärtschiger telling 20 Minuten that the complaints against their construction - noise, shadows, biodiversity and other risks, are “in most cases unfounded.” However, "The locations suitable for wind turbines must nevertheless be carefully identified, planned, implemented and operated," the SP wrote in a statement. 

By contrast, the Swiss People’s Party wrote that "full expansion within the proposed wind power areas would cover a small single-digit percentage of the total annual demand for electrical energy. In return, however, this means a massive disadvantage for those affected." They said that the turbines should only be built with the full consent of communities.

The canton has now launched a consultation into the proposal, which will conclude at the end of October. For more information about the plans, check out the official press release.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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