German indoor ski centre runs on solar, and off grid

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A 3.6MW PV array on the roof of the Hamburg-Wittenburg alpincenter not only provides all of its power needs, it cuts cooling costs, too.

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How do you power one of Europe’s largest indoor skiing halls? With the heat of the sun, of course. In fact, the idea to run Germany’s alpincenter – which houses 30,000m² of ski slopes – on solar power has proved to be somewhat of a win-win for the building’s owners, the Dutch Van der Valk Group.

Not only does the 3.6MW Canadian Solar rooftop PV array have the ability to operate the facility year-round – completely independent of the grid and without the need for subsidies – but the shadow it casts on the roof drastically reduces the load on the centre’s cooling technology (which needs to keep the indoor temperature at -1 degree Celsius year-round) and, in turn, reduces the amount of power consumed.

“It is a particular proof of photovoltaic efficiency that a winter sports center – which needs great amounts of energy – uses solar power,” Canadian Solar CEO and chairman Dr Shawn Qu said in a company statement about the project.

And for a project like this, reliability is rather important. “Performance losses are not tolerable,” said Dr Christian Metje, whose Hamburg-based consulting group was hired to deliver an energy solution for the alpincentre that would completely cover its demand using self-generated power.

“Projects like the alpincenter Hamburg-Wittenburg are the future of solar energy,” Metje said: “PV systems that cover the facility’s complete energy demand and that do not depend on public subsidies.”

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