St. Moritz

With its new photovoltaic installation, the Piz Nair valley station was integrated into the Clean Energy Tour St. Moritz on the first day of summer in 2003.
Christine Fuhr, Mainz

Clean Energy on Europe’s Roof

The world famous winter resort St. Moritz in the Engadine region of Switzerland is all set to become Europe’s highest altitude energy city through an ambitious energy project.

The date and place could not have been more appropriate: June 21, 2003, the first day of summer plus the longest day of the year, and Engadine, where the sun shines an average of 322 days per year. A photovoltaic installation went on stream at the Piz Nair valley station in St. Moritz, thus marking the official opening of the Clean Energy Tour St. Moritz – Piz Nair. This stage goal is part of the overall energy project called Clean Energy St. Moritz/Engadine. The aim of the project, which has been realized at between 1,770 and 3,057 meters above sea level, is to promote renewable energy generated from water, sun, wind and biogas and to increase the energy efficiency of the St. Moritz resort area. Public authorities, private industry and energy suppliers have joined forces to finance the project. St. Moritz would like to set an example for nature and a clean energy. “We know that time is running out,” said the Swiss Executive Federal Council member Micheline Calmy-Rey in her speech at the opening ceremony. “Energy consumption is increasing at an alarming rate, as are emissions of greenhouse gases in industrial countries.”

Solar energy is represented with three examples

Swiss Executive Federal Council member Micheline Calm-Rey officially inaugurated the Clean Energy Tour – Piz Nair at the opening ceremony.
The Clean Energy Tour is a unique experience involving energy, climate and nature,” explains Project Manager Willy Ziltener. The starting point of the educational energy and environmental tour is the oldest electricity plant in Switzerland located south of Lake St. Moritz. Via the mountain stations Chantarella and Corviglia, the tour leads to Piz Nair by cableway and aerial railway. The use of solar energy is illustrated by the 162 solar panels along the tracks of the Corviglia railway. With an annual production of about 12,000 kWh, the photovoltaic installation at the Piz Nair mountain station is the highest altitude facility of this size in Europe.

The fashionable restaurant at Corviglia, which is frequented by top stars like Roger Moore, offers an interesting view of the new photovoltaic installation of the Clean Energy Tour. It was constructed at a distance of some 50 meters on the southern side of the Piz Nair valley station. Its production is equivalent to the annual energy requirements of three households in a Western industrial nation. The facility was built in just two months by RWE SCHOTT Solar GmbH, a joint venture of RWE Solutions, Frankfurt on the Main and the technology company SCHOTT.

In his speech at the opening Dr. Martin Zimmermann, Sales Manager, Photovoltaic at SCHOTT Switzerland stressed the importance of solar energy in conserving the world’s resources. “RWE SCHOTT Solar is totally dedicated to accelerating the economic efficiency of this regenerative energy source. This is not only a means to protect the environment, but in the medium term, it is also a way to create a new branch of industry and, as a consequence, new jobs."

While the main focus is on solar energy, the windmill on Munt da San Murezzan is meant to symbolize the use of wind power. Another example of renewable energy is the ARA Celerina, a facility for the production of biogas. The electricity produced by all the facilities is fed into the public electricity grid.

After following the charming trail to St. Moritz with its panoramic views, the interesting and informative tour ends at the “Leaning Tower,” the trademark of the town where in 1878 the first electrical light in Switzerland was illuminated by electricity generated from hydropower.

Potential and environment

According to the Clean Energy Association in St. Moritz, electricity production from renewable sources is “... indeed the most suitable form of generating electricity in ecological terms.” However, the association goes on to say that this “green” electricity should be used deliberately and efficiently. There are limits to the use of renewable energy. Not all valleys can be flooded or all streams drained; nor can all windy landscapes be filled with windmills.

A sustainable electricity production from renewable sources necessitates consideration for the landscape and for the particular local and regional ecological circumstances. The St. Moritz region demonstrates that this is possible. The various hydropower plants fulfill the internationally strictest standards in terms of ecologically sustainable electricity production. “The symbolic, demonstrative and communicative effects of the individual facilities of the Clean Energy Tour are important for sustainable energy production,” says Dr. Hanspeter Danuser, Director of St. Moritz’s spa. “The facilities help gain publicity, acceptance, sympathy and goodwill; they promote clean energy and make it chic and trendy.”