The Ticino Solare solar power plant operates on the roof of a technical college building near Lugano. On 13 May 1982, the south-facing plant supplied electricity to the grid for the first time. The installed output is ten kilowatts, which was an extraordinary amount at the time.
The condition, colour and output of the solar cells were regularly checked and measured. An examination after 35 years of operation concluded that the cells were showing wear. This included corrosion, hot spots, as well as cracks in the cells or defects in connection cables. But the majority of the modules still functioned well and still delivered at least 80 per cent of the output over all, confirms Mauro Caccivio, who heads the photovoltaic laboratory at the Supsi University of Applied Sciences in Ticino.
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Electricity was not cheap: "The price per watt for the Tiso modules was 100 times higher than today, and the solar cells were made from the silicon waste of the electronics industry. The Tour de Sol, the first race with solar-powered vehicles, gave photovoltaics a boost in Switzerland," Caccivio recounts in an interview with the Swiss magazine Energeia. According to manufacturers such as the Swiss company Megasol, the expected lifespan of solar plants is 50 years or longer. Meanwhile, Ticino Solare continues to power and power and power. (nhp/mfo)