Construction Begins on Vertical Solar Dam in the Alps

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Robison Wells
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The Swiss discovered a new way to get energy out of their dams, not through hydroelectric power. Axpo, a Switzerland-based company, partnered with power provider IWB, to use the broad, curved wall of the dam as a vertical surface for solar panels. The project's complexity lies in installing the panels 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) above sea level in the Alps.

Only narrow roads lead from the Muttsee Dam in the Swiss Alps to its small, surrounding community. Hence, helicopters will fly all equipment to the worksite. With a green light on the job only two weeks ago, a crane already marks the job site's landscape with more materials on the way.

Builders expect to complete layering the solar panels on the dam's surface within four months, in time for winter.

Axpo estimates the solar project to provide 3.3 million kWh of electricity per year. The vertical solar panel positioning enables energy generation even as snow collects in the mountains. Other dams have solar panels. But this project perhaps represents the pinnacle of ambition in terms of scale and placement.

Six thousand total solar panels will be mounted on the Swiss Alps dam wall, covering an area of 10,000 square meters (107,600 square feet).

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