Publications on the Muensingen SolarSail


Final report  SolarSail Münsingen for the Swiss Federal Office of Energy

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Abstract :  The SolarSail in Münsingen, between Bern and Thun is a solar art project and one of the most spectacular solar power plants in the world. The sail is 22 meters high with a surface of 90 m2. The aim was to build an extraordinary plant to show people the beauties of solar energy.

Starting in the psychiatric center of Münsingen the project got the support of the community of Münsingen. The canton of Bern and the Swiss federal office of energy were also persuaded to support the project. Additionally three big Swiss companies and more than 30 private persons support the project financially. The opening ceremony took place on August 15th. Since then the power plant works perfectly.

You have to visit the SolarSail to get the right impression – when you stand in front of it you realise how big it is. Take your time to see how the colors of the PV-panels change during the day. And when the sun sets you can see the deep blue panels against the evening sky. It’s a quiet place – the SolarSail place. And while you are admiring the architecture you have a lot of time to the read the well designed information board and to follow the electronic display. You probably also have time to think about our energy consumption and the beautiful alternatives we do have today.

Wouldn’t it be a nicer world with a billion SolarSails producing our energy? Without noise, without pollution, without risk.

Visit the SolarSail and tell us what you think about it. You might agree with one of our friends who said: “It’s just gorgeous!”


The power of art (englisch) page 5

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In the municipality of Münsingen near Berne, a giant SolarSail is producing solar energy.

Passengers on the train from Berne to Thun rub their eyes in amazement at the sight of the Münsingen psychiatric clinic. In the middle of a green meadow, a giant sail reaches towards the sky, though there is no sign of a ship and Lake Thun is miles away. The thing that amazes passengers is the Münsingen SolarSail, a 22-metre high photovoltaic power plant.

A symbol. “This combination of a power plant and a work of art is intended to highlight the benefits of renewable energy to residents and those passing through,” says Roland Kormann, president of Münsingen’s SolarSail Society. The idea came from Kormann’s son Stephan and Bernese architect Peter Schürch. “The elegant shape of the sail is a metaphor for movement and lightness. It stands as a symbol for the sympathetic treatment of the fundamentals of our lives.”

The initiator of the project is the Münsingen psychiatric clinic, whose administrative director was Roland Kormann until his retirement at the end of 2003. Since 1998, the clinic has had an environmental concept for all areas, such as care, sheltered workshops and agriculture. The municipality of Münsingen supported the project with a generous grant. The regional centre in the Aare valley is very active in the areas of energy and the environment. In 1997 it received the Veloville (bicycle town) award and has been designated an Energy Town (see box). The Swiss Federal Office of Energy, the canton of Berne and 80 companies, organisations and individuals also contributed to the costs of CHF 300,000.

A spectacle. The SolarSail consists of hundreds of solar cells. They collect the sunlight and produce about 6500 kWh of electricity per year. At midday the glass panels are shimmering silver and at sunset they reflect the dark blue of the evening sky: a breathtaking spectacle!

The mast consists of three steel tubes held together by plates. The sail has a surface area of 90 m2. It is secured to a curved tube attached to the mast and a horizontal boom at the bottom, with flexible steel cables supporting the photovoltaic elements. This gives the sail a curved shape capable of withstanding any storm.

No charge. The panels are fibreglass laminates. The solar cells are bonded to the glass panels using a special laminating process. The monocrystalline cells have a comparatively high efficiency. The modules are connected in series; two DC/AC inverters convert the DC current, which is generated as alternating current. The output of the plant is 8.2 kW.

The SolarSail Society operates the plant. “Thanks to the 100% financing we haven’t had any capital costs,” says Stephan Kormann. The solar electricity is virtually free, though upkeep, maintenance and insurance still have to be financed. “This is why we sell the electricity to the Münsingen municipality’s eco-power network.” Since 1999 well over 30,000 kWh have been generated.

The awards. The SolarSail has won a number of awards, including the special eta prize from the Swiss electricity industry and the Design Award from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The plant also bears the Swiss eco-power label naturemade star.

“The electricity produced is important because even the production of small amounts of electricity makes a contribution to sustainable energy production,” says Stephan Kormann. The symbolic effect is key. “This beautiful plant demonstrates that forward-looking technologies can be integrated attractively everywhere – even in works of art.”