Rotating, Sun-Tracking Solar Islands For Swiss Lake

Manmade islands for the production of renewable energy – they’re all the rage, suddenly.

A few weeks ago we told you about Belgium’s plan to build an island in the North Sea with a below-sea-level reservoir in its middle that would be used for a sort of reverse pumped-hydro energy storage. Now there’s a scheme in the works that could result in rotating, sun-tracking, solar-power-gathering islands going in on Lake Neuchâtel in western Switzerland.

solar island

image via Nolaris

The company Viteos put out a press release in late January – and PV Tech noticed it – that said it would build the three planned islands, each 25-meters in diameter and with 100 photovoltaic panels of unspecified size, sometimes this summer, and have them in operation no later than 2014.

As Motherboard noted, this concept was the brainchild of Swiss research Thomas Hinderling at the  Centre Suisse dElectronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM) back around 2008. The focus then was on building an island solar thermal system, but an effort to test a prototype in the United Arab Emirates (of all places) foundered, and Hinderling turned his focus back to Switzerland with Nolaris.

A key principle appears to remain from the early vision: the platform goes on an “impermeable membrane resting on a cushion of air at a slight overpressure,” according to the Viteos press release. This makes it enables the platform to rotate “220 ° in the direction of the sun during the day and return to its initial position during the night.”  Putting this mechanism on an island, Viteos said, increases “the effectiveness of their rotation mechanism according to the lower resistance offered by the water.”

The plan is to put the islands about 150 meters offshore from a wastewater treatment plant in an area where boats are not allowed, and to anchor them to concrete blocks at the lake bottom.

The energy will be sent ashore via cable, but that’s not the real point of the project, according to Viteos. “The goal is not to produce kilowatt or mass at the best price, but to look for alternatives and original innovative deployment of solar panels,” the company said.

We’ll be watching to see what happens.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply February 10, 2013

    Zachary Alexander

    Solar islands can also be used for water conservation. The biggest problem with lakes and water reservoirs is evaporation. California added a solar island to one of their reservoirs and how much extra water the reservoirs appeared to hold.

  • This is but one more idea to incorporate among the many! Personally – I have some 6 pieces of 15 Watt Solar Panels – and 1 piece of an 80 Watt Panel. I would like to try this – use the single 80 Watt Panel – Either on a fixed mount on my Electric Car ‘Electricfly’ – or use 4 of the 15 watt panels there – and use the 80 Watt panel In my parking spot by the north Fence – face it South on a sloping mount – and use some reused batteries to stor the Energy There! then – with a small but capable AC inverter, and a Simple Timer – I could use it to charge my electric car – or to run the block heater on my other car!,

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