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Work to begin on Swiss backup power plant

The Swiss government has given the green light to begin the construction of a temporary reserve power plant due to be operational from February next year.

The executive body signed off on two decisions on Friday to speed up the approval of planning regulations for the eight-turbine plant in Birr, in the north of the country.

The government had already signed a contract with the GE Gas Power company earlier this month for the CHF470 million ($480 million) project; Friday’s decision means work can begin almost immediately on preparing the temporary plant, which will be available until spring 2026 as back-up in case of energy emergencies.

The turbines, which can be powered by gas, oil or hydrogen, are meant to supplement Switzerland’s hydropower reserve – also boosted by the government in recent months – and to strengthen energy security for the coming winter.

The turbines can produce a total of about 250 megawatts of power, the equivalent of around two-and-a-half times the capacity of the Rheinfelden hydropower plant on the Swiss-German border, the government wrote in a statement.

In addition, negotiations with other potential suppliers of reserve power plants are still underway. Switzerland already announced in February this year its intention to build reserve power plants to be used “in the event of extraordinary shortages and to be operated in a climate-neutral manner”.

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