Austria progress against the odds

A 1998 market status report of Austria, which now has 68 wind turbines and nearly 30 MW of installed capacity, a 10 MW increase on the 1997 total. The article also examines the near future for the market, where new legislation is under way to reorganise the electricity sector.

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Austria now has 68 wind turbines and nearly 30 MW of installed capacity, a 10 MW increase on the 1997 total. Fifteen machines were installed in 1998, the biggest of which is a 750 kW Lagerwey from the Netherlands. Another 98 turbines, with a combined capacity of 84 MW, are in various stages of planning, reports Stefan Hantsch of the Austrian wind energy association, IG Windkraft Österreich.

New legislation under way to reorganise the electricity sector -- including a target for renewables to meet 3% of demand by 2005 and a requirement for utilities to set fixed minimum payments for clean power -- could help get more projects in the ground. "Overall, the technical wind potential in Austria is estimated to be enough to meet more than 20% of the electricity demand, but the social acceptability lies at only 5%," says Hantsch.

At the moment, confusion reins over electricity tariffs payable for wind power and over wind subsidies. "Tariffs in Austria are a catastrophe," says Joachim Payr, responsible for wind turbine planning at the Verein Energiewerkstatt in Friedberg. The utilities in each land pay different tariffs for wind energy depending upon the season and the time of day, ranging from a low AUS 0.4/kWh in Steiermark in the summer to AUS 1.08/kWh in upper Austria in the winter. The cost of generating wind power in Austria ranges from about AUS 1.0/kWh in Burgenland to around AUS 1.5/kWh in the north.

Existing wind projects generally survive economically only with the help of subsidies, but state support is limited. A maximum subsidy of 30% of the capital costs is available, but with a subsidy budget of only AUS 30 million, few projects will be supported. "This is a catastrophe for private operator companies developing projects in which many people have small shares and which have the highest social acceptance. Big investors have the advantage, because they can keep their prices low and are less dependent on public aid," says Payr.

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