In this article, we would like to present you our research about wind power in Switzerland. In addition, we collaborated with Sivani from Kerala (India) and she researched about wind power in India (see below). Very important and interesting questions for us were: How much energy can we gain from wind power and would Switzerland face any challenges with wind turbines? Also, we wondered how a wind turbine works and produced an easy explanatory video.
To answer all these questions, we interviewed a scientific researcher who works at the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Science (ost.ch). All answers from the scientific researcher, Laurin Hilfiker (ost.ch), Interview about wind power (PDF), have been summarized and supplemented with additional research by us.
As we have already mentioned, we had the opportunity to cooperate with India and our communication was excellent. Once our collaboration was established, we opened a group chat on WhatsApp. We exchanged ideas, shared our progress and sent each other pictures. Video chats were also a very helpful option. We made good progress and all members tried to complete the tasks in time. Of course, there is a noticeable time difference between Switzerland and India, which made it a little difficult to set a date and time for zoom meetings. But all in all, it was a very positive experience.
Is it a good idea to use wind power in Switzerland?
Yes, very much so! Wind energy is not only one of the cleanest ways to produce electric energy but also gives us an opportunity to produce a big part of the very much needed winter energy. Switzerland has great potential for wind power due to its varied topography and strong winds in some regions. However, the use of wind power in Switzerland is currently limited compared to other renewable sources like hydroelectricity, solar power, and biomass.
Wind power could be a viable source of renewable energy in Switzerland, especially in areas with consistent wind conditions, such as the Jura mountains and the Alpine foothills. Moreover, technological advancements in wind turbines have led to more efficient and quieter turbines that have a lower impact on the environment. Ultimately, the decision to use wind power in Switzerland will depend on a variety of factors, including the country’s energy policy, economic feasibility, and environmental impact.
Where can wind turbines be installed?
Wind turbines can be installed in a variety of locations, but the most suitable locations are those that have consistent and strong winds. Here are some of the common places where wind turbines are installed:
- Onshore locations: Wind turbines are often installed on land in locations with high wind speeds such as coastal areas, hills, or open plains.
- Offshore locations: Wind turbines can also be installed in offshore locations such as shallow waters near the shore or in deeper waters offshore. Offshore wind turbines can take advantage of stronger and more consistent winds.
- Rural areas: Wind turbines can be installed in rural areas, such as farmland or remote locations, to provide power to local communities or to power agricultural operations.
- Urban areas: Wind turbines can be installed in urban areas such as rooftops, parks, or other open spaces. These turbines are often smaller and are used to provide power to individual buildings or communities.
- Islands: Wind turbines are a popular choice for islands that are not connected to the mainland power grid. These turbines can provide clean and sustainable power to island communities.
Overall, wind turbines can be installed in many locations where there is enough wind to generate electricity. However, the specific location for a wind turbine will depend on a variety of factors, including wind speed, available land or water, local regulations, and proximity to power grids and other infrastructure.
How much energy can we gain from wind power?
The amount of energy that can be generated from wind power depends on several factors, such as wind speed, turbine size, and efficiency. Generally speaking, the amount of energy that can be generated from wind power increases with the wind speed and the size of the turbine blades. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the world’s total installed wind power capacity reached 743 GW by the end of 2020, and wind energy accounted for 7.2% of global electricity generation . This demonstrates the potential of wind power as a significant source of renewable energy. To give you an idea of the energy output of wind turbines, a typical onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 2 MW can generate around 5.5 million kWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power around 1’500 homes. Offshore wind turbines tend to be larger and more efficient, and can generate more electricity per unit.
The Goal of the official energy strategy of the Swiss government is to produce 4.3 TWh of electric energy trough wind energy by 2050 . This would be about 8% of the current energy consumption and we would only need to build 1000 turbines for that. Laurin Hilfiker thinks this is not a very ambitious goal since some estimates calculated a wind energy potential in Switzerland of almost 30 TWh. So, I think if we are really interested in an energy transition, we should easily be able to have a yearly energy yield of 6-8 TWh if not 10 TWh.
In short, wind power can generate a significant amount of electricity, and its potential as a source of renewable energy is increasing as technology improves and more wind farms are installed.
The graph below visualizes very well when each renewable energy source produces the most of its energy and while both solar and water produce less energy in winter, wind energy produces most of its output during this season. In numbers, wind energy produces 2/3 of its energy in winter.
How expensive is a wind turbine?
The cost of a wind turbine in Switzerland can vary depending on several factors such as the size, capacity, and location of the turbine. Switzerland is known for having a high cost of living, which can also impact the cost of a wind turbine. According to a 2019 report by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, the investment costs for onshore wind turbines in Switzerland range from CHF 2.5 million to CHF 3.5 million per MW of capacity. For larger turbines, the investment cost per MW can be lower .
It’s important to note that the cost of a wind turbine is just one part of the overall cost of a wind energy project. Other factors that can affect the cost include site preparation, installation, grid connection, and operation and maintenance. Switzerland’s strict environmental regulations and limited suitable sites for wind turbines can also impact the cost of wind energy projects in the country. Nevertheless, the cost of wind power has been declining steadily in recent years, making it increasingly competitive with traditional energy sources .
How does a wind turbine work?
We asked ourselves how a wind turbine works and did some research. To explain the process to you in a simple way, we have created this explanatory video with the app “canva”. All images and videos we used are from the canva library and are free to use. We hope we can bring you a little closer to the process.
For those who prefer to read a short summary, here is the explanation :
There are two main concepts for wind turbines. The best known and most established System is a horizontal axis wind turbine with three rotor blades. To produce electrical energy this is also the most efficient design. Other designs could be a horizontal axis turbine with more or less than three blades or a vertical axis wind turbine. Even if some of these Systems bring different benefits, they are less suitable to produce electric energy at scale.
Independent of the design of the turbine the concept is always the same. The turbine takes kinetic energy out of the wind flow and transverses it as rotation energy to a generator to produce electric energy. This then results in a slower wind speed behind the wind turbine than in front of the turbine. Due to this change in wind speed, there is a physical limit to the efficiency of 59.6% for wind turbines.
What are the advantages of wind power?
Wind power does not produce any harmful emissions, which makes it clean energy source. Unlike fossil fuels, which release pollutants into the atmosphere, wind turbines generate electricity without emitting carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It is with about 17 CO2-eq/kWh besides water power the cleanest source of energy . The cost of producing wind energy has been decreasing over the years, making it a cost-effective and stable option for producing electricity.
Another advantage is that wind power can be produced domestically, reducing reliance on imported fuels and increasing energy independence. Wind farms can be scaled up of down depending on energy demand. Multiple wind turbines can be installed in a single location to generate more electricity. At the end of live the turbine can be completely dismantled without leaving long term damage on the building site
Furthermore, wind power creates jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and operations. These jobs are often located in rural areas where employment opportunities can be limited. Also, wind turbines use very little land compared to other power generation technologies. The land around the turbines can still be used for agriculture or other purposes.
Overall, wind power offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fossil fuels, with the added benefits if cost-effectiveness, energy independence, and job creation.
What are the disadvantages of wind power?
One disadvantage is that the amount of electricity that can be generated from wind power is dependent on the availability of wind. This means that wind turbines only generate electricity when the wind is blowing, which can make wind power less reliable than other energy sources. Another point is even if 80-90% of the turbine can be recycled, it is important, that in the long term even more of the turbine can be recycled to make sure we have a circular economy.
Wind turbines can also produce a low-frequency humming sound that can be auditable to nearby residents. They are often large and can be visible from long distances. Some people find the appearance of wind turbines to be unsightly and argue that they can detract from the natural beauty of the landscape. Moreover, wind turbines can be a hazard to birds and bats, especially if they are located in migratory paths or in areas where rare or endangered species are present. The construction and operation of this infrastructure can have an impact on local ecosystems and wildlife.
It’s worth nothing that many of these disadvantages can be mitigated through careful planning and siting of wind turbines, as well as ongoing efforts to improve the technology and reduce environmental impacts.
Would Switzerland face any challenges with wind turbines?
The main challenge in Switzerland concerning wind energy is probably a social challenge. A lot of people are not used to see wind turbines and look at it as a distraction in the landscape. For this reason or for others there is still a big movement to stop wind energy projects. This way a lot of projects get delayed.
Switzerland could also face some challenges with wind turbines due to its unique geography and environmental conditions. Switzerland has a mountainous terrain and a relatively small land area, which means that there are limited suitable sites for wind turbines. The available sites for wind turbines are often located in areas that are already developed or in protected natural areas.
Building wind turbines in Switzerland can be expensive due to the country’s strict environmental regulations, challenging terrain, and high labour costs. In addition to this, as with many renewable energy projects, wind turbines can face opposition from local communities who may have concerns about visual impacts, noise, or potential impacts on wildlife. Another challenge is that Switzerland’s wind resources are relatively modest compared to other countries, and wind speeds can be variable, which makes it difficult to predict how much electricity a wind turbine will generate.
Wind power in India by Sivani
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India (mnre.gov.in), the total installed wind power capacity in India was 39.2 GW as of February 2021. In terms of energy generation, wind power accounted for approximately 11% of India’s total electricity generation in 2020, according to the Central Electricity Authority. The exact amount of energy generated from wind power in India varies depending on various factors such as wind speeds, availability of suitable sites for wind farms, and the efficiency of the wind turbines.
Overall, wind power is an important source of renewable energy in India, and the country has set a target to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes a target of 60 GW for wind power.
According to a report by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, the capital cost of wind power projects in India ranges from INR 5.5 crore per MW to INR 6.5 crore per MW (approximately USD 750,000 to USD 880,000 per MW) for onshore wind projects, and from INR 8.5 crore per MW to INR 12 crore per MW (approximately USD 1.2 million to USD 1.6 million per MW) for offshore wind projects .
We have also created a survey on the subject of wind energy. We didn’t have time to create and evaluate the survey earlier. However, we thought it would be good to upload the survey anyway so that someone else can analyze it later. We would be very happy if you would take part. The following link will take you to the survey:
Survey about wind power (humanitarianresponse.info)
Team Wetzikon ZH: Luisa Ndue & Belinda Burri
Team Kerala: Sivani
Reviewers: Parents of team members and Alicia Ramos (classmate)
In addition to the information, we have taken from the interview, we have supplemented our text with information from the following pages:
 Global Wind Report 2021 (PDF, gwec.net)
 Energy strategy 2050 – Monotoring report 2021 (PDF, admin.ch)
 Energy research and innovation – Report 2019 (PDF, admin.ch)
 Wind Energy Numbers Switzerland 2021 (iea-wind.org)
 How Do Wind Turbines Work? (energy.gov)
 Umweltbilanz Strommixe Schweiz 2018 (PDF, admin.ch)
 Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India (mnre.gov.in)
You can find more useful information about wind power on the following pages:
- Lokale Stromproduktion aus Windenergie für Gewerbe und Industrie (agilewindpower.com)
- Locally produced wind energy for industry and commerce (agilewindpower.com)
- Where should wind turbines be constructed in Switzerland? (ethz.ch)
- NZZ-Umfrage – Zürcher wollen mehr Windkraft (nzz.ch, subscription required)