Biogas plant - April 2015

Since end of April 2015 a vision became reality: The first biogas plant in Zermatt is in operation and the first kilowatt hours of Matterhorn-Bioelectricity are fed into Zermatt’s grid. Initiated and accomplished was the project by the Julen family. The building was under construction for almost a year.

The power plant will produce between 500’000 and 700’000 kw hours of electricity annually – enough to supply around 200 households with electricity.  

Mastering the challenge – planning and construction

As there is practically no industrial space available in Zermatt, to conform with zoning regulations the construction of a biogas plant could only be realised in conjuction with a  farming concern. As the Julen’s farm is on sloping ground, the design and planing of the plant was challenging, made even more difficult because of fact that the land is avalanche prone and also considered to be a touristic natural relaxation area - which meant that the plant had to be odour free and completely avalanche safe.  On these grounds, the entire plant – including the typically round gas balloon on the fermenter (bioreactor) - was built underground.

The substrate which ferments in the biogas plant will be sprayed back onto the fields as fertilizer. As this is not possible in winter, the fermented manure has to be stored for the entire winter before it can be used in spring and autumn. This lead to having to build an additional storage tank for the manure.
The underground unit consists of a fermenter with a volume of 500 m3, a 450 m3 second phase digester and a 1200 m3 interim storage tank.   

Biogas Zermatt 4Fermenter

Biogas Zermatt 1Construction site, Spring 2014

Matterhorn-Biostrom simply explained

A biogas plant consists of a large fermentation tank, a small gas storage element and a cogeneration power plant. The new plant in Zermatt uses dung from the Julen’s own herd of black nose sheep and their Evolener cows and the bioorganic waste from the municipality of Zermatt. Gas is produced during the fermentation process which is later purified and used to fuel a cogeneration power plant – thus producing CO2 neutral electricity.