Two companies announced Thursday 01.24 they would implement on the largest Swiss lake – Lake Neuchâtel – three islands covered with photovoltaic solar panels and this in the context of a research project.

Viteos, a Swiss energy company and fellow Nolaris were indeed associated laboratories to make real floating platforms, the primary goal of which is not to produce electricity on a large scale. These platforms float off the treatment plant (WWTP), close to research centers and training Neuchâtel.

With an estimated investment of over 100 million Swiss francs (80 ME) Viteos several objectives:

– Increase its own production of more than 80 million kilowatt hours in 10 years
– Primary focus on renewable energy (water, wind and sun)
– Conduct regional production units.

To achieve this, Viteos identified several innovative projects on production, but also on a more rational use and saving energy. Investments by Viteos expected to increase its production of electricity from renewable over 150% over 10 years.

The specific objective of the project Viteos solar islands is primarily to test new ways of generating electricity by the photovoltaic effect. “It is also to improve the mechanical solutions, test the effects of moisture, erosion, wind, waves and even snow and frost on the type of construction” said Philippe Burri, Viteos Technical Director.

Real multidisciplinary testbed for all technical and academic circles of the canton of Neuchâtel, this evolving set will demonstrate the effectiveness of this principle, which can be adapted to other solar technologies (photovoltaic concentrated, with or without cogeneration heat and power, among others), in different places (basins in sewage [STEP] tanks, for example). The goal is not to produce kilowatt or mass at the best price, but to seek alternatives to the original and innovative deployment of solar panels.

Objectives and features of the innovation

The project consists of placing on Lake Neuchâtel 3 platforms (islands) and 25 meters in diameter with 100 photovoltaic panels each. They have a mechanism to track the sun’s movement (the island rotates 220 ° in the direction of the sun during the day and returns to its initial position during the night). They must necessarily be implemented on a water surface, in order to increase the effectiveness of their rotation mechanism according to any resistance provided by the water.

The platforms are laid on a support of PU-PVC (PVC – polyurethane) surrounded by a coil inflated with compressed air, which consists of several compartments independent of each other. 100 solar panels will be back to back each other at a 45 ° inclination in successive lines on each platform and secured to a glass fiber reinforcement, stabilized itself on a support made of neoprene. The rotating platform of the island is placed on an impermeable membrane resting on a cushion of air at a slight overpressure. For questions of cost reduction, ease and speed of installation, as well as recycling and/or disposal at end of life, an inflatable structure rather than a rigid structure was chosen. Much lighter, the inflatable structure has a smaller environmental impact (smaller amount of material to produce, transport, recycle or dispose).

Specific measures of security facilities were provided, such as automatic shutdown of engine rotation in case of bad weather, resistance to overweight due to ice cover, illumination during the night or in fog, among others.

The islands will be installed at the exit of the STEP Neuchâtel, in the riparian zone of 150 m inland from the shore. This area is closed to navigation, which avoids any contact with the boat. The islands are anchored to dead bodies (concrete blocks placed at the bottom of the lake) by cables. They will also be connected to the shore by cables and connected to the electrical distribution network of Viteos by inverters.

Given the proximity of Neuchâtel centers for training and research (EPFL / IMT, CPLN / ET, etc..), The project also aims to develop a center of excellence in technical mechanics, testing and implementation of erosion under natural conditions (wind, rain, frost, etc.). tests and photovoltaic energy production. Each island is independent and can function and produce electricity without the other two (a necessary condition for repair or maintenance or testing two different scenarios in parallel). A large number of different solar receivers can be installed on the solar islands. Professor Baillif Institute of Microengineering at EPFL is already interested in one of the platforms equipped with new generation solar cells, some of which are developed by the laboratory of Neuchâtel.

The three islands are mounted in the port of Neuchâtel between May and August 2013, and then hauled to their final location before the WWTP to be put into operation between late 2013 and early 2014. They should stay in business for 25 years and will be removed.

Integration of solar islands in the environment

The area where they will be installed already home to a dozen other renewable energy projects. These islands therefore also participate in the card of the canton of Neuchâtel, Centre for Research and application of green technologies.

According to the impact study, this project has no impact on the physical, geological and lake currents due to the low surface area occupied by the three islands. It does not induce significant temperature change, nor reduction of plankton population. Only the shadow of the water may have an influence, however insignificant due to the very low surface area occupied. He did not have a negative influence on fish or their spawning conditions and therefore the fishery.

The solar islands do not produce dust or other organic material, inorganic or carcinogenic. The system uses compressed air, which, even if exhaust does not produce polluting substance. There is no direct production of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, nor affect the ozone layer.

The choice of location is based on different criteria:

– Near the center of solar energy (EPFL / IMT, CPLN / ET, etc..) And large central power generation from renewable sources
– Mouth of the STEP (little place for swimming or fishing)
– In an area prohibited to navigation
– In an area of technical facilities (port area, STEP, sports facilities)

In addition, the power consumption of the “free cooling” by Viteos conducted in parallel to ensure cooling of buildings and technical facilities (hospital Pourtalès, CSEM, Microcity, CPLN) by the lake to be covered 49% production of the three islands solar.

In 25 years, the islands will be removed. With the choice of recyclable materials, a large part of the component elements will be reprocessed (solar panels, structure, etc.). The site will resume its original appearance when the islands have been removed.

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