The largest alpine solar plant - Muttsee, Switzerland
A different kind of fall protection system for PV installations
2,500 metres above the sea - that is the lofty perch of the largest solar power plant in Switzerland. A dam wall right in the middle of the Glarus Alps stretches over 1,000 metres along the mountain range. And that spot exactly was chosen for the installation of a photovoltaic system.
The challenges involved with this project were tremendous and of the same enormity as the requirements imposed on the installation of the fall protection system necessary for the PV modules.
Pioneering achievement in the mountain region
Towering high up in the mountains and thus far above the fog boundary, the PV modules installed on the dam wall in the mountains are subjected to much more sunlight than in the plains. Another factor compounding the impact on the solar power plant is the snow from the surrounding region / at the top.
Those in charge therefore decided to embark on a ground-breaking project named “AlpinSolar”. Harvesting energy in two different ways, the dam wall itself is now supplying “Green Energy” in combination with the PV modules.
One project - many challenges
But, before “AlpinSolar” could even be implemented, the project required a fall protection system capable of withstanding the enormously adverse weather conditions and allowing for the installation of the PV modules along the dam wall. The prime contractor, Planeco GmbH, addressed this request to our partner, Secureco AG.
“We were looking for a system whose metal elements could stand up to the expansion and would be easy to handle and install at the same time. Since the installation will remain in operation for decades, we needed to provide proof beforehand that every anchor, every connection and every bolt was in compliance with the strict requirements for working freely suspended from a rope”, explains Christian Paoli, Managing Director of Secureco AG.
Another requirement was to find a safety system that can / could be used in combination with the rope access method. This was necessary because only this method made it possible to install the 5,000 photovoltaic modules on top of the dam wall. Meanwhile, the system will also be needed in the future for installation, cleaning and maintenance operations on the photovoltaic system.
“We never had to master a construction site of similar magnitude and had to put a tremendous amount of thought into such aspects as the surroundings, planning and implementation”, continues Christian Paoli. In short, the necessary concept had to be simple, quick and safe.
The tight schedule did not help and provided merely 4 weeks for the fastening of the entire fall protection system.
Worse yet, there were a number of additional challenges that had nothing to do with the fall protection system itself. One example was the transport of the photovoltaic system, as the dam wall’s location so high above sea level brought about difficulties linked to the weather.
The transport of the material by helicopter deserves special mention as it could only be carried out in fair weather conditions. The installation team spent the night on site, sleeping in mobile homes on the construction site or in a near hut provided by the Swiss Alpine Club, SAC. Fog and rain frequently forced the work staff to briefly interrupt their work.
Get more information on professional fall protection for your PV system in this free factsheet.
The solution - the TAURUS rail system
In light of these challenges and the requirements that needed to be overcome, those in charge opted for the TAURUS rail system. Composed of aluminium rails, the system is robust and known to perfectly adapt to the structural conditions on site.
Another advantage of the system is that it is suitable for the rope access method. This method allows the PV installers / solar technicians to position themselves at the desired point on the dam wall and thus carry out the installation of the photovoltaic system.
The passable sliders of the rail system ensured free-running movement in the system. The total length of the installed TAURUS system was 915 metres. Each of the 305 rail elements installed in total required three drill holes.
But, how was the TAURUS rail system affected by the variations in temperature? “The fact that the system works flawlessly at nearly 3,000 metres above sea level means that it will be a good solution for the dam wall of the Muttsee Reservoir at an altitude of 2,500 meters”, declares Ahmet Erbilgic, the sales advisor in charge at INNOTECH Schweiz AG.
This is owed to the fact that the TAURUS rail system is designed to withstand great temperature variations and to be ready for use at any time.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Christian Paoli is happy to report that everything went off without a hitch thanks to the excellent preparation by the prime contractor and the long years of close collaboration with INNOTECH: “INNOTECH is distinguished in particular by their documentation, certifications and tightly knit support.
We now enjoy this marvellous model project with great pleasure and also revel in the frequent compliments we receive for it.” And, Curdin Erne adds: “The installation of the PV system would not even have been possible without our fall protection system. And in that we take great pride”.
All benefits at a glance
- Cleaning, maintenance and servicing are possible at any time thanks to the TAURUS rail system, which also ensures the optimum output of the photovoltaic system
- Climate-friendly power generation thanks to our fall protection system, as our system was vital to the installation of the photovoltaic system along the reservoir dam
- The TAURUS rail system allows for the use of the rope access method, making it possible to reach any point along the photovoltaic system on top of the dam wall
Photo rights: Axpo, INNOTECH
Learn even more about this pioneering project in this half-hour video:
Safely secured solar power plant
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Like a bodyguard - TAURUS fall protection system combines maximum safety with minimum visibility.
Founded in 2001, INNOTECH Arbeitsschutz is a family-owned company with headquarters in Kirchham and branch offices in Germany and Switzerland. With a dedicated research and development team, INNOTECH soon set international standards in the area of occupational safety. Ever since, it has driven forward the further development of innovative products. Today INNOTECH is one of the largest manufacturers in Europe which has specialised exclusively in the production of safety systems, with 88% from its own manufacture, in order to guarantee maximum quality.
According to various statistics, several hundred people have an accident on roofs every year. Accidents that could have been prevented with appropriate safety equipment and the diligent installation of high-quality fall protection systems.
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