Europe’s new highest 3S gondola lift incorporates a green design
The new 3S gondola lift up to the Klein Matterhorn above Zermatt, Switzerland, has some nice green credentials. Operating daily since November 1st this year, it has taken three years to build, during 100-day summer construction weather windows at around 3,800m above sea level
The new lift, which will run alongside the existing cable car, has won attention for multiple new features including some cabins with glass floors and others encrusted with Swarovski crystals. However it’s the lift’s eco-friendly design that’s generating a buzz in the environmental industry. This is because the south and west walls of the lift’s valley station are covered not in crystals, but in a total of 485 modules solar panels covering a surface area of 877m².
The solar station from the outside, as pictured below:
This solar power system at the new 3S cableway’s valley station can produce up to 135.8 kWp and will generate 157,000 kWh of energy a year – equivalent to the annual power usage of around 35 households. As opposed to conventional energy, this will reduce CO² emissions by up to 23.4 tonnes each year.
“The PV modules had to be carefully selected to account for the alpine weather conditions at almost 3,000m above sea level, which also required the installation of a number of steel supports to combat the high winds. The energy-generating modules are slightly thicker than the conventional types in order to withstand the effects of the weather, such as ice formation and hail,”
Stefan Aufdenblatten, CEO of Elektrizitätswerk Zermatt AG (EWZ) explained, adding,
“The Valley Station for the new lift is perfectly suited to a photovoltaics system with both location and available surfaces ideal for the installation.”
Interspersed between the modules are 57 glass windows which serve as natural lighting for the building’s interior. These have been positioned in such a way that they allow light to fall not only on the boarding area, but also in vital areas for inspection and maintenance of the cableway. The result is a station flooded with sunlight and little need for artificial light sources.
Though compared to international efforts the move seems revolutionary, the new solar generation area on the lift station is actually the third at the resort: Since April 2000, the south facade of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise restaurant has supported 108 solar modules with a power rating of 23,650 kWp, generating 35,000 kWh a year. The high-yield photovoltaic system won Zermatt’s lift company the Swiss and European Solar Prizes in 2010.
Zermatt has also been operating another photovoltaics system at the MEX station on Trockener Steg since 2010. Here, 99 solar panels yield 21,780 kWp of power and generate 20,000 kWh annually.