In the tiny mountain village of Tenna, a farming village in eastern Switzerland not far from resorts such as St. Moritz and Davos, big green ideas have been introduced.
Although larger, well-known ski resorts overshadow it, when their aging ski lift needed replacing, locals raised enough money to update it and then went a step further: They invested in building one of the world’s first solar-powered ski lifts. This tiny Swiss town with a population of about 110 inhabitants is now home of the world's first ski lift powered by a chain of 82 solar "wings" that trail up from the base station to its mountain peak.
On sunny days, the lift produces twice as much power as it consumes, according to Andina. In the springtime when ski season ends, it becomes a mini solar power plant. The investment wasn’t cheap: $1.5 million, but the lift is expected to produce 90,000 kilowatt hours annually – well beyond the 21,000 kilowatt hours needed to run it during the season! So, about three times more solar energy than it needs to power the lift providing surplus power that is sold to the regional power company's grid.
So what happens to the 82 solar “wings” when it dumps? Not a problem, because they rotate to follow the path of the sun in the sky and can be tilted to perpendicular during a storm, so there’s no load and the snow slides right off. …