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Case Study: Sharp Solar Panels in Extreme Weather Conditions

High in the Austrian mountains is an isolated mountain hut surrounded by nothing but the harsh elements. It sounds like an unlikely place for cutting edge technology, but is the perfect place to use solar energy for off-the-grid power. The latest PV modules from Sharp were light and resilient enough to make this possible.

The Habsburg on the Rax is a mountaineers‘ refuge beautifully situated at 1,785 metres (5,856 feet) above sea level on top of on the summit of the Grieskogel in the Rax Mountains. From here, visitors can enjoy an incredible view of Schneealpe, Ötscher and Hochschwab.

Accessible only by foot, the hostel relies on a generator for power. Prior to the assembly of the new PV system, there was only a small kWp system, where the majority of the required energy supply was produced with a simple diesel generator.

The owners wanted a better solution to power the hut and its cableway, and Sharp's Solar Modules were perfect for the job: "We’re located at 1,785m height. Therefore, it is important to choose a robust module, which can withstand the strong snow and wind pressures of the region. The region Rax in particular is known for its constant wind pressures and high wind velocities," said Christian Schreiter, ÖAV Alpenverein Gebirgsverein.

The solar panels and Energy Storage system - based on Lithium-Ionen and the three-phase Offgrid inverter – were supplied by installers, Solare Energie GmbH. They knew exactly which module would be best suited for this environment: The Sharp NQR256A.

"Due to its design with two aluminium struts attached behind the cells we considered the Sharp NQR256A module to be very robust and therefore ideally suited for alpine installations," said Heimo Modre, Managing Director and owner of Solare Energie GmbH.

After the assessment, it was decided that the Habsburg on the Rax would be fitted with 64 solar modules each with 48 cells, which would earn an annual yield of 1,250 kWh / kWp.

Due to this often-snowy location, the panels were fitted across two roofs: 54 modules on the main roof at an angle of 22°, and ten modules angled at 36° on a smaller roof.

"Because the main roof of the Habsburghaus is usually covered with snow we decided to mount 10 modules with 36 ° elevation on the canopy. This makes it possible to charge the batteries not only during summer but in winter as well," explained Heimo.

Of course, installation at such a remote and difficult location had its challenges:

"The challenges at these locations are the alpine heights and rapid weather changes. This also makes the logistics very complex and the process of transporting the required material to the location needs to be planned and prepared very carefully, especially when a helicopter is needed."

Many advantages were gained by the Habsburg on the Rax, tells Heimo.

"Due to the high solar coverage, they do not need fossil energy sources for approx. 80 % of the year. They can also operate the ropeway used to transport goods to and from the hut without a diesel generator now. And because only high quality components were used the system is very reliable and the risk of a system failure is very low."

The new PV system means that hikers will be able to experience the most beautiful sunset in the Rax Mountains knowing the environmental impact of their stay has been greatly reduced.

If you would like to learn more about Sharp Solar modules, please Get In Touch.

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