Wind power in Switzerland By Robert Horbaty

The installed capacity of wind energy in Switzerland did increase during 2008 by 2.3 MW. The total capacity of all 38 installed turbines is 13.8 MW, and the energy yield in 2008 increased to 18.54 GWh.

Electricity consumption in Switzerland declined by 0.6% in 2007 to 57.4 billion kWh. The last time a decrease in consumption was recorded was in 1997. Domestic power plants generated 65.9 billion kWh, or 6.1% more electricity than in 2006. This constitutes the third highest electricity output ever achieved in the country. After consecutive years of electricity import surpluses in 2005 and 2006, an export surplus was achieved once again in 2007.

In February 2007, the Federal Council decided to focus its energy policy on four main areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, replacement of existing large-scale power plants and construction of new ones, and foreign energy policy. In order to implement this strategy, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) prepared draft action plans for energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, which were approved by the Federal Council on 20 February 2008.

These action plans set out to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by 20% by 2020 (in line with the declared climate objectives), to increase the proportion of renewable energy to overall energy consumption by 50%, and to limit the increase in electricity consumption to a maximum of 5% between 2010 and 2020. From 2020 onwards, the objective is to stabilize electricity consumption. Although Switzerland has pursued a consistent energy policy since 1990 through the Energy 2000 and SwissEnergy
programs, it is still a long way from achieving its goal of securing a sustainable energy supply, quoted as a “2000 Watt Society”. In view of the diminishing fossil fuel reserves, the challenges associated with climate change, and the high degree of dependence of Switzerland‘s energy supply on imports, the focus is increasingly shifting toward renewable forms of energy.

For the SwissEnergy program, renewable energy is a clear priority. Despite this priority, the proportion of wind power to Switzerland’s overall energy consumption is still very modest. However, the growth prospects for renewable energy are excellent – both in the near future and over the long term, thanks to technological progress, increasing economic competitiveness in the context with “Cost-covering remuneration for feed-in to the electricity grid (CRF),” and the positive image of renewable energy.

SwissEnergy will only be able to achieve its objectives relating to renewable energy by working closely with strong partners from the country’s economy, which possess detailed knowledge about the general environment and the energy market. These include the Swiss Wind Energy Association “Suisse Eole,” as well as the cantons (states). SwissEnergy also promotes the transfer of new technologies from research to practical implementation.

Progress Toward National Objectives

The targets of the SwissEnergy program are based on the Energy Act, the Kyoto agreement on the climate, and the CO2 Act. Such aims are as follows:
• Climate: Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 10% by 2010 (compared to the 1990 level) according to CO2 legislation.
• Electricity: Limiting the increase in electricity consumption to a maximum of 5% compared to the 2000 level.
• Renewable forms of energy: Increasing the proportion of renewable forms of energy used in electricity production by 500 thousand MWh and in heat production by 3 million MWh.

Impacts on energy consumption in 2007

The additional impacts achieved in 2007 –based on voluntary measures encouraged by the SwissEnergy program – lie at about 3.5 PJ. These impacts are about 16% lower than in the previous year and constitute about 0.4% of Switzerland’s final energy consumption. The clearly weaker rise in impacts is a result of a reduction in the budget to approximately 39 million CHF – 7% less than 2006. In the fifth year of the SwissEnergy program, a total of 2.7 PJ of combustibles, 0.3 PJ of vehicle fuels, and about 0.5 PJ of
electricity could either be saved or substituted with renewable forms of energy as a result of voluntary measures and promotional measures at the cantonal level.

Both electricity production and heat production from renewable forms of energy further increased in 2007. SwissEnergy is well on the way to reaching its targets. The heat sector has already attained 80% of its target for 2010, with a further 551 GWh of heat (corrected for variations in the climate) produced in 2007. Wood and waste (renewable proportions) still make the greatest overall contribution in this sector. The greatest percentage growth was recorded in the heat pump sector with 11.5% compared to 2006. The number of solar panels increased strongly over 2006. The number of biogas plants remained roughly the same as in the preceding year. Further progress was made in the building renovation sector. Heat pumps and wood-pellet burners are gaining a greater share of the market because of the steep increase in the price of oil.

The increase in production of electricity from renewable forms of energy was more modest. In 2007, an additional 52.9 GWh of electricity were produced from renewable sources of energy. In this sector 5% of the agreed target for 2010 has already been attained. The greatest absolute gain was noted in the wood sector; electricity production from wood increased to 92.4 GWh, more than double the quantity for 2006. By contrast, waste incineration plants produced less electricity, however such plants still make the greatest contribution to achieving energy targets. Above average growth was recorded in the photovoltaic sector, although in contrast to 2006 some larger facilities were installed.

Wind energy

The Swiss wind energy concept also identifies the calculated wind energy potential for Switzerland based on the real wind conditions on the sites and on the possible number of plants to be installed:
• Time horizon 2010: 100 GWh.
• Time horizon 2025: 600 GWh.
• Time horizon 2050: 4,000 GWh.

In 2008, wind energy in Switzerland produced 18.54 GWh representing 18% of the 2010 objective. By 1 January 2009 there is a “Cost-covering remuneration for feedin to the electricity grid (CRF)” for renewable energy in Switzerland. This change of politics in promoting wind energy did lead to a boost of new projects.

Benefits to National Economy

The installed capacity of wind energy in Switzerland did increase during 2008 by 2.3 MW. The total capacity of all 38 installed turbines is 13.8 MW, and the energy yield in 2008 increased to 18.54 GWh. This brings the average capacity factor up to 16%. In 2008, 94% of the electricity from wind energy was produced by utility companies. Driven by the new regulation for the remuneration of green electricity, various companies (utility owned and private) are developing activities to get a share of finances at disposition for renewable energies.

Industrial development and operational experience

The Swiss industry is active in the following fields of wind energy:
• Development and production of chemical products for rotor blades, like resins, adhesives, etc. (Gurit Heberlein, Huntsman, Clariant).
• Development and production of power electronics like inverters, etc. (Integral Drive Systems AG, Vivatec, VonRoll Isola).
• Services in the field of site assessments
and project development
(Meteotest, Interwind, NEK, Kohle/
• Niche products like ice detectors (Boschung, Markasub AG).

The total turnover in the above mentioned areas is about 200 million €/yr, which represents about 600 employees. The chemical products and power electronics industries account for 95% of this turnover
and 85% is covered by the four largest companies. Some companies are mayor players in the world market despite the nearly nonexistent home market.

Economic details

The specific costs of existing larger wind power plants (including installation) amounted to about 2,000 to 2,200 CHF/kW (1,345 to 1,480 €/kW). Today’s prices for new installation are more like 2,800 CHF/kW (1,885 €/kW). These prices will result in cost-covering tariffs in the range of 0.25 CHF/kWh (0.17 €/kWh) at windy locations. Unfortunately, the regulation for the compensatory feed-in remuneration
scheme provides only 0.17 to 0.20 CHF/kWh (0.11 to 0.13 €) for wind energy – based on the same mechanism as the German model. At the moment, there are negotiations between the wind energy
industry and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) to raise this value.

National Incentive Programs

Producers of renewable electricity from hydropower (up to 10 MW), photovoltaic energy, wind power, geothermal power and biomass energy as well as biomass waste have been able to register their plants for the cost-covering remuneration for feed-in to the electricity grid (CRF) since 1 May 2008. An annual sum of around 320 million CHF (215 million €) is to be earmarked for the new promotion measures called for in the Federal Energy Act. It has been decided that a maximum share of 30% would go into wind energy.

The scheme will go into operation on 1 January 2009. From this date, plants that qualify for the new incentive scheme and have submitted their notification of commissioning to swissgrid AG correctly
and on time will receive the compensatory feed-in remuneration for the electricity they feed into the grid. By the end of October 2008, the national grid company swissgrid AG, which is handling the registration and decision process on behalf of SFOE, had received 5,426 applications, 3,500 of which were received on 1 and 2 May 2008 alone.

A total of 365 wind energy projects, with an overall installed capacity of 675 MW, did receive a notification of registration of their application. This means, that developers found sites in Switzerland which could produce up to 1,200 GWh – despite the fact, that the foreseen tariffs are not cost
covering. Yet this figure must be analyzed rather critically, since for registration, only a contract with the land owner and the installed capacity had to be presented. So it is quite possible that during the future developments, various projects will be abandoned due to insufficient economics, spatial planning issues, landscape protection, etc. Developers now have two years to produce the necessary documents for the building permits, otherwise they must re-apply and are on the waiting list. However, for the further growth of the wind energy industry in Switzerland it is very important to see that once the financial aspects are regulated (CRF), the number of planned wind projects just sky rocketed!

The high number of registrations in all technologies meant that the full cap for all technologies laid down by Parliament in the Energy Act has since been reached. The SFOE is therefore declaring a moratorium
from 1 February 2009 for all technologies. In practical terms, this means that swissgrid AG will put all new applications from any type of plant on a waiting list if they are postmarked 1 February 2009 or later. Further expansion of green electricity production in Switzerland on the basis of the current CRF incentive system is no longer possible. Only by amending the legislative framework can the economic potential of renewable power continue to be exploited. The main focus must be on raising the CRF cost limits (full cap). A further possibility would be to speed up the introduction of obligatory production quotas
from renewable energies for the individual energy supply companies.

Swiss Wind Energy Association “suisse Eole”

Wind energy is an important element within the SwissEnergy program. Suisse Eole, the Swiss Wind Energy Association, is the leading authority on the use of wind energy in Switzerland and co-ordinates all activities in collaboration with the cantonal institutes of energy, energy suppliers, and energy planners. Under the title “Implementation of the concept Wind Energy

Switzerland,” suisse Eole can offer certain operational and financial support for site assessments and communication measures. Based on the important changes in the energy policy framework of Switzerland
(CRF), the number of players on the Swiss market has increased dramatically. To establish a high quality reference standard for future projects will be a major challenge of the Swiss Wind Energy Association.

R, D&D Activities

The wind energy research program 2008 to 2011 focuses on:

• Developing innovative turbine components for specific application in Switzerland’s harsh climatic conditions:
– Reducing loads with new materials
– Increasing the energy yield at low wind speeds
– Employing Nano-technology against icing and fouling.

• Increasing availability and energy yield at extreme sites:
– Developing planning expertise for applications in complex terrain
– Testing and demonstration plants at extreme sites
– Evaluating operational experiences, and making recommendations.

• Increasing the “value” of the wind energy, and optimizing the integration of wind energy into the grid:
– Fore and nowcasting the power production from wind
– Grid regulation with a high amount of wind energy
– Optimizing the conditions for intermittent production plants in the grid

• Increasing the acceptance of wind energy, and integrating social and environmental authority:
– Defining success factors and strategies
– Improving local planning processes, social acceptance
– Implementing public participation models.
Implementing pilot and demonstration projects leads to stronger market penetration by wind energy and closes the gap between research activities and application in practice.

In 2008, the budget for wind energy related R&D projects was 729,000 CHF (490,740 €). This is an increase from 2007 by more than 50%. An amount of 677,000 CHF (455,740 €) is spent on promoting

Collaborative research

Within this framework, the following projects were realized:
• Development of innovative turbine components such as antifreeze coatings for rotor blades
• Increased availability:
– Alpine test site Gütsch, handbook and seminar within COST 727
– Measuring and forecasting icing on structures
– Development of wind turbines for safe operation in alpine environments
• Increased “value” of the wind energy using fore and nowcasting of energy yield from wind turbines in complex terrain
• Increased acceptance for wind energy
– Effect of wind power installation in Switzerland
– IEA Topical Expert Meeting “Social Acceptance” to Invest
– “Code of Conduct” for the development of wind energy projects in Switzerland
• Under the title “Pilot and Demonstration Project,” the following activities were realized:
– Support of spatial planning activities for the implementation of wind energy projects
– Financial support for site assessment
– Purchase of a Lidar, which can be rented out by the Swiss Wind Energy Association.

The Next Term

Based on operating experience and the possible optimization potential, the research activities should have results on the following key factors:
• Quantifying the production losses and the downtimes due to icing; implementing and evaluation of relevant measures
• Reducing the production cost by increasing the full-load hours and the reliability of turbines in harsh conditions
• Increasing the accuracy of energy yield estimates
• Reducing planning and installation costs by speeding up planning procedures and considering important acceptance issues.
The following research projects are in discussion:
• Product development in the area of antifreeze coatings
• Development of a reliable ice detector
• Providing a freezing up map of Switzerland
• Evaluating the effects of the icing up on the operational behavior and the energy yield of wind turbines in the Jura mountains
• Developing a product for “Fore and Nowcasting”
• Further development of a “Code of the of Conduct,” accepted procedure for wind energy development in Switzerland
• Project “Before/After” for the determination of the effects of the implementation of wind turbines.

Thanks to the new CRF legislation the results in new project development are astonishing. Future research activities have to concentrate on issues that lead to the realization of a substantial amount of these planned projects. The experiences in cold climates will be continuously shared in international
seminars and in the project group of the IEA Wind Task 19 Wind Energy in Cold Climates. Having more experiences in difficult site development and sophisticated planning procedures than in large-scale wind energy development, Switzerland is running the new IEA Wind Task 28 Social Acceptance of Wind Energy Projects.

(1) The SwissEnergy program:
(2) “2000 Watt Society:”
(3) Konzept Windenergie Schweiz, Bundesamt für Energie, 2003;
(4) Konzept der Energieforschung des Bundes 2008 – 2011,
(5) Energie Forschungs-Programm Windenergie für die Jahre 2008-2011

Author: Robert Horbaty, Swiss Wind Energy Program, Switzerland.