Austria - Bumper wind years defy European slump

AUSTRIA: Austria's wind market is looking rosier following improved support for renewable energy rubberstamped last year.

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Austrian wind energy association IG Windkraft is predicting a record-breaking year for new installations in 2013 with 420MW commissioned.

The lion's share of 73 turbines with about 220MW capacity will be sited in the eastern state of Burgenland, which is aiming to be energy independent by the end of the year. Another 155MW will be in Lower Austria state, also in the east.

austria capacity pieThis follows a bumper year for wind in 2012, with a 27% increase in new installations. By the end of the year, 1.38GW of wind was generating electricity in Austria, up from 1.08GW at the end of 2011. Again, Burgenland was the centre of action with 223MW installed.

The driver behind the expansion is a revision of the eco-electricity law, which was approved by the European Commission in February 2012 and came into effect in July. This raised the annual sum available for feed-in tariffs (FITs) from EUR21 million to EUR50 million, of which EUR 11.5 million is earmarked for wind energy.

However, a FIT regulation that took effect in mid-September fixed rates until the end of 2013. The rate was reduced slightly to EUR0.0945/kWh, compared with EUR 0.095/kWh in 2012 and EUR 0.097/kWh in 2011.

The FIT is only payable to projects with a contract with the state eco-electricity administration office, and requires that the turbines are brought into operation within 36 months of signing. Renewable developers are entitled to such contracts as long as the state funds earmarked for the FIT support have not been exhausted. In the long-term, the state stands to benefit because taxes and levies paid by operators over the plant lifetime of 20 years is double the total of payments to operators over the 13-year support period, IG Windkraft says.

Large project

One of the beneficiaries of the increased cap for renewables support is a 237MW project that will be one of Europe's largest wind farms. The EUR 450 million project is being developed by EWS Consulting and owned by Austrian Wind Power, ImWind and Puspok Group.

The outlook for wind developments in the southern state of Kaernten is gloomy as a regulation took effect on 1 November that effectively only allows turbines in areas where they cannot be seen, and turbine hub heights are in general restricted to no more than 80 metres. Kaernten currently has just one wind turbine. Although support for wind energy is strong and applications have been lodged for at least five locations, the regulation would stop wind expansion before it has actually begun, fears the wind association.

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