The largest ski resort in the Southern Alps, Serre-Chevalier in France, has announced it will be meeting 30% of its energy needs by 2021 using a combination of green energy sources.

Work on the project that will mean hydroelectric, photovoltaic and micro-wind turbine electricity will all be generated in the Vallée, is now underway.

The resort will generate the energy in a €3.6m project that will create solar power from Serre Chevalier’s average 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, hydro power from its snowmaking water system and wind power from its exposed high-altitude passes.

Altogether this provides a multiple natural resource capable of producing nearly a third of the total consumption of electricity (4.5 gigawatt hours out of a total of 14.5) for all 58 lifts as well as snow-making equipment—including 14 machine rooms and 577 snow guns—and all tertiary installations such as office and farm buildings.

“From now on, and a few weeks after obtaining Green Globe certification, the effective implementation of this initiative serving the environment will make Serre-Chevalier a resort that is fully committed to the transition to green energy,” said Patrick Arnaud, General Manager of the Serre Chevalier Vallée Ski Area, who added, “Beyond this ambition, we want to make our resort a resource to produce energy to see this project duplicated in several other ski areas.”

80% of the area’s 4.5 GWh of green energy will be generated by the ski area’s snow-making water supply.  The principle is simple: collected at two watershed sites (Chantemerle and Villeneuve le Bez), the water is filtered and cleaned of all its sediments, conveyed through the snow-making network pipes into the area’s engine rooms, passed through turbines to produce electricity, then reintroduced into its original basin.

The impact on the landscape and resources is almost nil since the use of existing snow-making equipment does not require any additional installations and water is used as a renewable resource and not as a consumed resource.

1,420 photovoltaics panels will be installed on existing buildings, including flexible panels designed in the region. Spread over several dozen sites in the area, the 2,370 m² of solar panels will produce 527,000 kWh or 12% of total ReN production.

The desire to avoid using large solar farms installed in the middle of the valley and instead using the roofs of the resort’s facilities, such as ropeway stations and tertiary buildings, has led SCV-Domaine skiable to set up a flexible photovoltaic panel demonstrator, in particular on the detachable grip chairlift station in Les Vallons. This technology was developed locally in the valley by Sunwind and assembly was carried out for the most part around Briançon in the French Alps.  Several systems are already in operation and all the panels will be operational in 2021.

Finally two micro-wind energy devices are to be tested against the harsh requirements of mountain locations.  In order to ensure the transfer of the necessary skills to maintain the turbines, the French importer Enerlis, the Estonian turbine manufacturer—specialised in wind turbines adapted to northern conditions—and the ski area teams will install a model less than 12 metres high, rotating horizontally, with a capacity of 10 kW.

A second model will serve as a demonstrator for several innovative breakthroughs. This prototype made by the French company Collaborative Energy, is a 6-metre wind turbine producing 5 kW and operating according to a vertical rotation principle via wooden blades made in the local ski town of Briançon, part of Serre Chevalier. The boiler work on the structure was also carried out locally.

The installation of the high-altitude micro-wind turbine park will produce 8% of the resort’s renewable power needs.