Swiss solar project offered as nuclear alternative

A debate in Mühleberg, Switzerland, has arisen after Bern solar manufacturer Megasol reportedly told Bernische Kraftwerke (BKW) it can install an 8.9 MW peak decentralized solar system in the place of BKW’s proposed nuclear power plant. The company also warned against sinking billions in the form of unprofitable investments into new nuclear power plants.

Based on the company’s offer, the system would be installed in stages over the next 15 years, with completion scheduled for 2025. As of 2025, says the company, the complete installation would produce eight TWh of electric current annually. Thus it would act as a replacement for BKW’s planned nuclear power plant.

Furthermore, Megasol says that with overall system costs amounting to 13 billion Swiss francs, the required investment would be no greater than the amount needed for a completely new nuclear power plant. It adds that with an average of 10.89 Rp*/kWh the costs for generating electricity are comparable to the costs required for a new nuclear reactor.

The solar system would be installed primarily on larger buildings, such as schools, avalanche barriers and corporate buildings. In addition to public buildings, private owners would also have the chance to register their roofs and make them available in return for financial compensation. Homeowners would then be allowed to keep the solar plant after amortization and thus produce their own electricity free of charge. Altogether, around 16,000 buildings would be equipped with a rooftop solar system.

Markus Gisler, managing director of Megasol Energie AG hopes for a positive response from BKW. For him it is clear that new construction of a nuclear power plant would mean billions in misdirected capital spending that has to be paid by taxpayers in the end. "In 15 years, we will be able to produce solar electricity more cheaply than atomic energy," he states.

In an interview with Sonntagszeitung Kurt Rohrbach, head of management at BKW, confirmed receipt of the offer. For him, however, it is still unclear how irregular solar power will be able to replace base load power without additional costs.

Swissolar president and SP national council member Roger Nordmann does not buy into this argument: "In contrast to nuclear power plants, solar installations produce the most electricity when the need is greatest. In the future, people will just have to become accustomed to the fact that pump-fed power stations will not be used primarily for the trade in electricity, but rather for grid integration of renewable energies."

* Rp is the abbreviation of Rappen, which represents 100th of one Swiss franc.