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A small canton in Switzerland unveiled a creative new way to generate solar power: 'We will probably see more of these things'

The project has inspired many to seek similar solutions in other nations.

The project has inspired many to seek similar solutions in other nations.

Photo Credit: iStock

Innovative infrastructure can empower communities all across the socioeconomic spectrum to access cheaper, cleaner energy.

Take the northeastern Swiss canton (what they call a state) of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, for example, which decided to try something new by outfitting a roadside retaining wall with vertical solar panels, according to Electrek.

The installation took place in 2021. The German mounting system provider K2 Systems and Swiss contractor Solarmotion installed 756 glass-glass solar panels on a 75-degree retaining wall beside a busy road. By leveraging this previously unused space, the vertical PV system now produces enough electricity for about 52 households annually.

The canton aimed high by pledging to source 40% of its energy from renewables by 2035. This project inches them closer by feeding 230,000 kWh annually into the grid of energy supplier St. Gallisch-Appenzellische Kraftwerke. In return, the canton gets a feed-in tariff.

The team behind the panels customized the components to handle roadside conditions. Anchors and rails attach them firmly to the masonry wall, and special coatings protect against corrosion from proximity to the highway. These thoughtful design choices maximize durability.

The panels' angles and orientations capture ample sunlight even in winter. There's no need to worry about snow buildup — it slides off the vertical surface. And by using the retaining wall, no additional land is required.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden demonstrates that a bit of innovation can unlock clean energy potential in unexpected places. This example highlights the power of communities to drive impactful change through resourcefulness.

"Especially in the winter months (when consumption and dependence on foreign electricity imports are at their highest), the vertically aligned modules will achieve a very good electricity yield," said a K2 Systems spokesperson.

The project has inspired many to seek similar solutions in other nations, with one person noting, "We will probably see more of these things."

According to one reader: "Large portions of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico get 7.5 sun hours per day… Amazing we're not installing [vertical panels]."

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