Market leader unveils conveyor belts with wooden gallery enclosure and solar power

Green energy: Sunkid puts its (wooden) Gallery enclosure to use as the support for a solar panel array.

With about 70% of the global market in ski resort passenger conveyance on conveyor belts, the Sunkid Skilift-Fördertechnik GmbH company in Imst is the industry leader. Business director Emanuel Wohlfarter and his team have put years into the continued development and new applications of Sunkid's products. In the process, both environmental protection and utmost energy efficiency have always been at the center of development efforts. Following the Sunkid Pedalo, the conveyor belt with bicycle drive, the technicians and engineers at Sunkid have now developed a conveyor belt boasting both a full enclosure and a positive energy balance.


The Gallery enclosure for the conveyor belt can now be outfitted with solar panels to produce green energy. The electricity produced by the panels is then fed into the power network, or can be stored in batteries for later use directly on site.


The solar panels are laminated into place with a sandwich-like construction using two polycarbonate panes, each 0,07”(2mm) thick. This ensures both optimal protection from damage and utmost reliability. In addition, the laminar construction with two panes increases structural strength.


The new laminar construction using polycarbonate panes not only allows the incorporation of solar panels, but also additional possibilities – like the insertion of transparent logos, signs, advertisements, etc.


Energy sustainability: Made in Austria.


A 328-feet (100m) long Sunkid Wonder Carpet requires approximately 50 kWh of electricity during typical lift operating times (9am to 4pm). "With a photovoltaic array installed in the Gallery enclosure, a Wonder Carpet over 196 feet (60m) in length can supply all of its own energy needs. The cost of the initial investment, about 50,000 Euros for the solar array of a 328-feet (100m) long Wonder Carpet, is recovered after 10 years," explains Emanuel Wohlfarter. Wohlfarter is anticipating strong demand in the global market for the new Sunkid Solar Gallery.


The solar panels for the Sunkid Solar Gallery are manufactured in Austria. That is, all the know-how and hardware for the innovative system can bear the mark, "Made in Austria." For customers, that translates into an assurance of competence and high quality. The Sunkid Gallery enclosure, developed in 2001, protects passengers from snow, rain, wind, and cold. The Gallery also greatly benefits operators by allowing immediate start-up of the lift even in the stormiest of conditions with deep new snow.


Sunkid also now produces a Gallery enclosure which is entirely manufactured from wood. In addition to allowing unique designs with customized wood elements and sustainable construction, the new Gallery enclosure also provides the large surface area ideal for outfitting with solar panels. With precise positioning of the solar cells, the power production of the panels can be custom-tailored to shade and sun conditions.


Extra: The function, advantages and economics of photovoltaic technology.


A photovoltaic array generates electricity by converting incoming light hitting the solar cells into current. These solar cells are manufactured from quartz sand (silicon) and traces of other elements. Multiple solar cells are connected by small metal leads to form one solar panel in a housing. Multiple solar panels are then connected in series. The energy they produce (direct current) is converted into alternating current by means of an inverter. The solar energy is then usually passed on to the power grid.


Solar power is one of the most environmentally friendly means of generating electricity. It produces no noise, no emissions and requires no fuel aside from sunlight. The production of solar cells generally uses recycled materials, including some waste materials from other industries.


Depending on location, orientation and the specific technology, sunlight can produce between 80 and 120 kWh of electricity per square meter of solar panel. A 9 - 10 m2 solar array can generate approximately 1000 Watts of electrical power. This means energy gains of 800 to 900 kWh per year, depending on location.


Optimal alignment of a solar array in our latitudes involves placement at 30 degrees roof slope facing south. If the system deviates from this alignment by 45 degrees toward southwest or southeast, the energy gains drop by 5 to 10 percent. Even a perpendicular surface (solar face: 90°) still harvests up to 70 percent of the potential electric power.


In Austria, the national Green Energy Act regulates pricing for electricity surpluses. Yearly renewal of the Act determines the amount refunded for energy contributions to the national power grid. The amount of the allowance varies depending on the location of energy installations. In order to receive the subsidy, 100 percent of the electricity generated by a solar array must be routed back into the grid.


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