Fossil fuels have served their purpose wholly since their discovery, providing energy that has surpassed initial expectations. Still, over the years, with more innovations springing up around the world due to technological development, it has become apparent that the source of our all-important energy and its continued use is detrimental to the environment we so desperately need for continued existence. So we have turned to renewable energy.
This form of energy has a less negative environmental impact, is more sustainable, allows for the creation of a much-needed increase in employment. RE sources also help sovereign nations utilise their natural environment and resources to generate the power they need and acquire a self-sustaining income.
This post is a case study of one of these sovereign nations at the forefront of renewable energy innovations; Switzerland.
Interesting Facts About Energy in Switzerland
Although Switzerland has seen a significant surge in renewable energies such as ambient heat, biomass, wind power and solar power since 2005, their main energy sources hinge on oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower.
- 50.6% of Switzerland’s energy comes from petroleum and fuel sources, making them the main sources, electricity follows with a bit above half of that percentage with 25%, then gas with 13.5% and finally wood at 4.4%
- Hydropower plants are the primary sources of electricity, nuclear power generates about 33.5%, and thermal power plants (that do not use renewable energy) generate 2.3%
- Many Swiss citizens have strong opposition to nuclear power, and they have derailed several nuclear power plant projects. An example is the case of Canton of Aargau (Kaiseraugst) when in 1975, public protests led to the abandonment of a nuclear power plant project.
- Presently, Switzerland has set goals for an energy transition. In the Energy Strategy 2050, one of its most ambitious aims is to phase-out nuclear power use.
- 59.9% of Switzerland’s total domestic electricity production comes from its 638 hydroelectric power plants.
- The largest dam in Switzerland is The 285-metre-high Grande-Dixence dam (canton of Valais) is the third-highest gravity dam in the world and the largest dam in Switzerland.
- As of 2015, the per capita electricity consumption in Switzerland was 7,033 kWh putting it higher than the 2014 rate for France, which stood at 6,233 kWh, Germany at 6,225 kWh and the Netherlands at 6,108 kWh. However, it maintained a lower rate than Norway, which stayed at 21,091 kWh, Finland at 14,477 kWh, Sweden at 12,597 kWh, Belgium at 7,225kWh and Austria at 7,081 kWh.
(Source: Discover Switzerland)
Growth Of Switzerland’s Renewable Energy Policies
The Energy Strategy 2050 emphasises ‘increased energy savings (energy efficiency), the expansion of hydropower and new renewable energies, and, if necessary, on fossil-fuel-based electricity production.’
The system Kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung (KEV), which is the feed-in tariff (FIT) and its predecessor, the Mehrkostenfinanzierung (MKF), as well as specified targets, are the key instigators for market demand in renewable energy. Even though the budget made available has been rather limited compared to market demand.
The institutional framework in Switzerland, which supports renewable energy, has developed to grow continually without major hitches. With support from the SwissEnergy programme, this process has brought together myriad stakeholders, promoted innovative ideas, providing pertinent information, pushed market deployments and supported collaboration across different sectors.
As soon as KEV was introduced, an objective for sharing renewable energy within the national energy mix by 2030 was also introduced, providing a concrete signal for renewable energy sector investors. Within the Swiss Energy Act was included the target of an annual additional renewable electricity generation of 5400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2030, of which 2000 GWh are to come via hydropower. These long-term targets build upon an important element in the overall framework for RES.
The government implemented a set of measures due to The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Action Plans of 2008 to improve renewable energy technologies’ market conditions. These measures included:
- Financial support for the replacement of existing heating systems with renewable energy, for example, heat pumps and biomass through global budgets distributed to the cantons dedicated to supporting measures
- Revision of the building standard for new buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects in Switzerland and Expert Projections
The world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant is currently operating in the Swiss Alps. According to experts in the field, this technology could become a major part of the photovoltaic industry worldwide. Photovoltaic energy is produced by turning sunlight into electricity, and in 2013 Guillaume Fuchs got the idea to spearhead this high-altitude floating solar power plant in an alpine environment.
According to SwissInfo.ch, “The solar plant at Lac des Toules consists of 1,400 panels, laid on 36 floating structures made of aluminium and polyethene plastic anchored to the bottom of the lake. Current production exceeds 800,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, which is the equivalent of consumption for about 220 households”. Constructing a photovoltaic power plant in a human-made lake at very high altitudes means that the weather conditions are harsher and more intense with a thinner atmosphere and extreme UV rays. More electricity is generated thanks to the two-sided panels that capture the sun rays above and the reflected sun rays from the water’s surface.
Experts believe that floating photovoltaic stations such as this one are the future of solar energy because there is less need for unwarranted land use. There will also be a reduction in the competition between agriculturists, construction companies and the renewable energy sector regarding land. The water placement also leads to increased yield capabilities because it cools the panels as they sit effortlessly, extending their lifespan altogether.
Per year, nuclear power plants in Switzerland produce about 25 TWh of electricity. For the government to replace that amount of power, approximately 25,000 football fields would need to be covered with photovoltaic panels to cater to consumer needs, hence the need for more innovation.
We, at Hive Power, believe that the use of innovations plays a huge role in driving the renewable energy sector and technologies. Our Smart Grid Analytics solution offers industry participants the capacity to manage electric energy and electric grids, using data-driven AI-powered solutions, efficiently.
As the use of fossil fuels increasingly becomes a thing of concern, renewable energy, on the other hand, is picking up steam as a more sustainable and widely accepted alternative for energy production and consumption. Renewable energy technologies (RES) are getting ever more advanced with big tech companies such as Tesla and countries worldwide trying to outdo themselves and demonstrate the innovative potential of these new technologies from replenishable sources.
The objectives of these projects primarily are to slowly phase out pollutant fossil fuels, meet expected renewable energy targets, and optimize the new energy exportation landscape.
Here is a list of five projects from around the world to look out for in 2021:
The TuNur project is a power plant with a 2,250MW solar CSP located in the Sahara Desert. It also has a 2 GW HVDC submarine cable that runs from Tunisia to Italy. The plan is to generate around 9,400GWh of total renewable energy dispersed every year to other European countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
The Tunisian government has found that they have an abundance of solar and wind renewable energy sources that can be utilised to yield the set target of 30% renewable energy use by 2030. This has allowed them to enter into partnerships to harness this opportunity and promote a series of projects in all concerned technologies and varying capacities. One of these is the one with Nur Energie, named TuNur which is looking to become the leading renewable energy developer in the region.
TuNur is concerned with filling the renewable energy gap in Europe and consolidating the immense development of solar and wind energy in Tunisia and North Africa.
This project is overseen by ConnectGen developing solar projects in Texas, specifically southwestern Leon County. Their large-scale solar project expects to generate energy enough to power more than 50,000 homes.
ConnectGen chose Leon County for solar technologies development due to its proximity to an already existing transmission system, which at the start of 2020 had produced enough power to supply 498.637 homes in Texas. It is expected that there will be a 13,310 MW added capacity introduced to the Texas renewable energy sector over the next five years.
Construction of the Pecan Prairie solar project area will begin in 2021 with operations to begin in 2022. This project’s advantages include tax revenue generation for the Lone Star state, creation of local jobs, and community support. ConnectGen focuses on developing best-in-class wind, solar, and energy storage projects in America to increase the supply of low-cost clean energy domestically produced.
This project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is meant to be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga 3, which has 2 phases. The hydropower use of the Inga river in the DRC is very complex and already has two facilities, Inga 1 and Inga 2, built in 1972 and 1982 respectively which currently provide a substantial amount of grid electricity. This 5-dam complex is expected to generate 42GW of power, holding 52 turbines each, which would make it the world’s largest hydroelectric dam at completion.
Congo cannot utilise all of the power that this project will generate, so, they will export most of it to other African countries such as South Africa via a power line running through Zambia and Namibia. The plans for this project started as far back as the ’50s when some European countries expressed interest, such as France, Belgium and China, not eliminating a few African countries.
Inga 3 will approximately cost $14 billion with Angola committed to buying 5000MW once operational. However, this project is overshadowed by a few concerns surrounding environmental impact as per loss of biodiversity, and social impact in the form of displaced communities.
Hornsea 2 has been in development since 2015 by the Danish company Ørsted intended to be part of the larger Hornsea zone a few kilometres of the coast of East Riding, Yorkshire. The power of the wind is the core energy source for this project. Ørsted is the leading company in offshore wind utilisation. It has taken up the responsibility of building the world’s largest wind farm off the UK’s coast generating clean energy for UK homes.
Hornsea 2 will have 165 turbines with a capacity of 1.4GW providing power to well over 1.3 million homes. In 2019 onshore cable construction was started with the wind farm and HVAC substation. Turbine installation will commence in 2021 after which startup should commence. The wind farm is expected to connect to the grid at the North Killingholme National Grid transmission station in North Lincolnshire.
Saint Brieuc has been projected to have a total installed capacity of 496 MW, which should generate clean energy for approximately 835,000 people, and it is located 16 kilometres off the coast of France with 62 SG 8.0-167 DD turbines.
Brittany, where Saint Brieuc bay is situated, is prone to immense winds and high tides. Hence, it makes sense that it would be one of the first large-scale offshore wind farms to receive all the necessary documentation and permits from the French government for its creation and operation. Offshore operations are expected to start in 2021 with Dutch marine contractor Van Oord installing the substation and pin piles. The total investment in this project is said to be 2.4 billion euros.
Our list is in no way exhaustive because renewable energy has slowly grown from being a niche only sector to a completely pivotal market creating high demands that must be met. Projects are springing up across the globe in the private and public sectors, from Europe to Africa to Australia to Asia and back. Clean energy seems as though it should now be crowned the ‘Pure Gold’ of our time taking over from the much-acclaimed ‘Black Gold’.