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Switzerland’s largest ‘open air’ solar farm planned at Bern Airport

A huge solar farm – the equivalent of 35 football pitches – is being planned at Bern Airport aimed at producing electricity for up to 15,000 homes from 2026.

Flughafen Bern AG and the energy company BKW have joined forces to launch the “BelpmoosSolar” project. They want to install solar panels on one-third of the land at Bern Airport, approximately 25 hectares, to generate up to 35 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, a joint press release said on Friday. Around 30% of the electricity will be generated in winter.

“The “BelpmoosSolar” project is proof that the central Plateau region [of Switzerland] has suitable sites for large-scale, open-air solar plants that can generate large amounts of electricity in a region that is already populated and close to residential and business centres,” the statement said.

The project is expected to cost around CHF30 million ($32.24 million). Official planning approval is still needed for the proposal.

Bern is not the first airport with plans to use its land to generate solar-powered electricity. Vienna Airport already has an open-air facility of a similar size.

Switzerland is committed to achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Solar power is one of the main planks of this strategy. Renewable energies must meet the growing demand for electricity. The authorities want 34 terawatt hours (TWh) of solar-generated electricity a year by 2050 (2.6TWh were generated in 2020). 

Installing panels on existing building roofs and facades in Switzerland offers more than enough potential to meet growing needs for solar energy – at least on paper. They could provide 50TWh and 17TWh, respectively, says the Federal Office of Energy. But the government is encouraging cantons and entrepreneurs to explore other complementary measures like solar panels on highways, in the mountains and in other open spaces.