Solar photovoltaic electricity potential for Switzerland

Solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment on existing rooftops in urban areas is one of the most promising sustainable energy resources. 

Researchers from the SCCER FEEB&D at EPFL Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory use a combination of machine learning algorithms and geographic information systems (GIS) to estimate the rooftop solar PV potential for the urban areas at the commune level (the smallest administrative division) in Switzerland.

The results show that the annual potential PV electricity production for the buildings in the urban areas (1901 out of 2477 communes) is about 18 TWh. Here assumed the efficiency is 17% and 80% performance ratio. This electricity production is enough to generate 28% of Switzerland’s electricity consumption in 2015 (Figure 1). With an annual increase in cell efficiency of the crystalline silicon wafers of 0.3% per year, the PV panel efficiency will increase to 27.2% by 2050. Also, assuming an increase to 90% of the performance ratio, the rooftop solar PV electricity production for urban areas in Switzerland in 2050 is expected to reach about 32 TWh (Figure 1). This PV electricity production would then provide 37% of the total forecasted (IEA scenario) electricity use in Switzerland in 2050.

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Figure 1 — Left: Technical potential of rooftop PV electricity production (GWh/year) for each commune in Switzerland. Right: Comparison between current and forecasted monthly PV electricity production (GWh/month) for the 1901 communes in Switzerland (current year marked in red; year 2050 marked in orange), and Swiss electricity consumption in 2015 in GWh/month (marked in blue).

For further information please contact Nahid Mohajeri.

Authors: Dan Assouline, Dr Nahid Mohajeri, Prof. Jean-Louis Scartezzini.