Swiss Unveil Largest Solar Energy Field

Switzerland unveiled its largest solar energy plant, covering an area the size of two football fields and set to supply 300 families with power for one year.

Built on the banks of the River Rhone, next to a hydro-electric dam, the plant's 6,000 solar panels will generate a total of one million watts, according to Raymond Battistella, director general of the regional public energy monopoly Geneva Industrial Services.

Switzerland's overall solar energy capacity is close to 20 million watts, meeting barely 0.04% of its overall consumption of 55 billion watts. Solar power's share in the country's energy market is below the north European average, and Switzerland plans to increase its use of alternative energy sources to 10-15% of the total by 2025, Batistella said.

Hydraulic energy makes up 55% of Switzerland's energy consumption while nuclear energy accounts for 35%. SIG has been offering its customers the option of paying slightly more -- 0.17 euros ($0.20) instead of 0.14 euros ($0.17) per kilowatt/hour -- for energy that is guaranteed to be environmentally friendly.

The offer has so far been taken up by 6.5% of customers -- creating an extra incentive for Switzerland to increase the share of renewable energy sources, including solar power, to 5% by 2009.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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