Austria has been making impressive advances in its goal of deriving all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, with the country’s largest wind turbines to date currently being installed in Gols and Mönchhof, Burgenland.
Built by the Püspök group, the 30 turbines each boast 80-meter-long blades at a height of 242 meters, nearly double the size of the Stephansdom ; total output will be 143 MW, enough to provide electricity for some 90,000 households. Austria currently has 1,307 wind turbines with a total output of 3,120 MW.
The €143 million project is a major upgrade from the previous wind plant on the same location, which were built 20 years ago with turbines placed a mere 150 meter high. “We can set up more systems in this area than before,” said company CEO Lukas Püspök. “We are generating three and a half to four times more electricity,” as new turbines are more efficient and increasingly cost-effective.
However, wind power is only part of the Püspök group’s strategy: In the future, they plan to generate more electricity from solar energy. “Photovoltaics when there is a lot of sun and wind power when there is a lot of wind,” as Püspök puts it. His Burgenland-based company is Austria’s second-largest wind farm operator, and will have a market share of 30% in their home state upon completion of the new Gols and Mönchhof plant.
“We are not only mathematically self-sufficient in terms of electricity with renewable energies in Burgenland, but far beyond – almost twice as much,” he said. Indeed, Burgenland has officially been self-sufficient in electricity since 2013.
Green Austria Plans to Go Even Greener
Under construction since 2019, the upgraded wind farm comes at an opportune time: Last month, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler and State Secretary Magnus Brunner presented the Renewable Expansion Act (EAG), the legal framework for the federal government’s plan to pour €1 billion annually into expanding renewable energy sources until 2030. The European Union has promised to provide an additional €10 billion in funding.
“By 2030, Austria will generate its electricity exclusively from biomass, wind power, hydropower and solar energy,” Kogler announced. “This puts Austria in the fast lane when it comes to climate protection.”
However, that’s easier said than done. Austria currently produces 53.5 TWh of green electricity, with plans on the state level increase output to 65.1 TWh. But to reach the goal of 100% renewables, 15.4 TWh are still missing. As 1,300 wind turbines generate just 7 TWh per year, the current energy gap is significant, and some federal states are hesitant to comply.
Austria’s western states in particular are still apprehensive: Wind farms – and, to a lesser extent, solar plants – are unpopular among citizens, with many considering them an eyesore that take up a lot of space. Environmentalists are also not a fan. The north end of the Neusiedlersee contains over 200 windmills, which are said to interfere with birds. Local politicians are mindful of this, and, thus, only Burgenland, Lower Austria and Styria are set to expand their capacity in this sector, despite some resistance from locals. Overall, Austria’s nine states are still short of federal targets by half regarding wind power and 8.2 TWh in solar power.
Luckily, there are alternatives. Experts are particularly optimistic concerning hydropower, with Salzburg, Styria and Tyrol already close to their targets. If existing expansion plans are implemented, the gap would be a relatively small 2.2 TWh. Things are also looking up in the biomass sector, where researchers expect new project applications to cover the current 1 TWh gap as soon as the EAG subsidies flow.
Either way, Austria is committed to achieving climate neutrality by the end of the decade and the federal government is willing to enforce that policy. All federal states can and must initiate significant steps towards renewable energy sources, emphasized Gewessler. “We will discuss areas of potential with each state, what hurdles still exist and where we can help,” she said.