Competition makes the world go ‘round…but when your competition draws some of the richest people in the world, how are you going to ‘stay in the game” and give them a run for their money?
The residents of tiny Tenna Switzerland, a little hamlet in the Swiss Alps, decided to give their more muscular neighbors, such as St. Moritz and Davos, a run for their money indeed when the townspeople teamed up and decided that David was indeed ready for Goliath. The upshot? Good-bye dilapidated old t-bar ski lift and hello… solar-powered ski lift!
The blueprint is simple. 82 wings, or panels, are placed over the “drag” lift. Since the lift is of the old-fashioned “drag” type, and not a more energy-needy gondola, much less electricity is needed than would be at one of the larger neighboring resorts.
O.K. Now for the down side. It snows like mad in the Swiss Alps (as it should.. .after all it is a ski resort)!
Won’t these panels break under the sheer weight of piled up snow? Ordinarily, yes. These panels, however, are designed so that they can be shifted to an upright position when a storm hits so that they can avoid an unbearable accumulation of snow. The result is that instead of causing the panels to shatter, the snow simply slides right off.
And what about the constant cloud traffic moving through the skies? How will the panels be able to assume the optimal angle for receiving the sun’s rays in a setting where skies are just as often as gray as they are blue? This has also been taken into account by the lift’s architects. The panels are designed to follow the sun’s rays, just like retired “snowbirds” Florida-bound in winter!
And then, as with any business investment, there is the question of return-on-investment, or ROI.
In other words, was the whole thing worth the almost $1.5 million price tag – gotten from investors and donors as well as the local citizenry – that it came with?
The answer is “yes.”
The ROI in this case – physically and financially – is something no engineer or MBA would scoff at!
In fact, there has been a handsome surplus for the village of Tenna, which can take its 66-75% “cut” of of the electricity produced by the panels and use it to reimburse its citizens by plowing it back into the “grid and reward them with both cash and energy. The installation is so efficient that the lift uses less than a third of the 90,000 generated kilowatts according to one analysis!
All in all, this venture has been resoundingly successful for this tiny Swiss village; thus proving that teamwork combined with technology and forward-thinking …and a bit of risk-taking…can pay very well indeed.