Wind Power in Austria By Stefan Hantsch and Susanne Glanzegg

This generation avoided 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 for the year. Surveys and assessments show a potential of 7.2 to 7.3 TWh of wind energy by 2020. This would comply with 10% of the total energy expenditure. In strong contrast to this great potential, the construction of new wind turbines in Austria came more or less to a standstill in 2008.

An amendment to the green electricity law worsened the framework conditions significantly. Recently new planning has been agreed. Now, also because of the financial crisis, planning of Austrian Projects is gaining attention, even though they can only be realized when the green electricity law, especially the funding guidelines are improved.

Progress towards National Objectives

There is no Austrian wind energy target yet. Nevertheless, there are two compulsory targets for the whole renewable energy sector. The old EU target of 78.1% of the national electric demand by 2010 (the current percentage lies at about 60%). The other target is the EU resolution RES, where Austria has committed itself to an increase in alternative energy from the current 23.3% to 34% by 2020.

Benefits to the National Economy

The Austrian wind energy sector consists on one hand of the operators of wind farms and on the other hand of the supplying industry. The Austrian component suppliers are specialized in wind turbine control systems, blade materials, generators and wind turbine design. Last year the turnover of these companies rose by 25% to about 300 million €. The Austrian wind power association estimates that about 2,500 jobs have been created in the whole wind energy sector.

Market characteristics

About 40% of all existing wind plants are owned by cooperatives; another 40% are owned by utilities; and the rest are owned by private companies. The first wind turbines in Austria where built in 1994. At that time, cooperatives or single wind turbines built by farmers were most common. Due to a more stable framework in the support system since 2000, but especially in 2003, utilities and other companies got into the market on a larger scale.

Today the most successful players planning new wind projects are cooperatives, which were able to grow over the years, and utilities. The Austrian operators are very active in the neighboring countries of Central and Eastern Europe. When prospects worsened in 2006, operators concentrated on project developments abroad. In spring 2009, some of the independent companies formed “The Wind Company GmbH” which is planning the development of projects in regions outside of Europe.

In 2008, the first wind projects were repowered. Four 600-kW wind turbines were replaced by six 2-MW machines. Since Austria only recently began building of wind plants, most of the turbines are already in the 1.8-MW to 2-MW size range. The two main suppliers in the Austrian market are Enercon and Vestas.

Component suppliers are the main economic activity in Austria related to wind energy. Bachmann electronics GmbH is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of turbine control systems. About 35,000 MW of wind capacity is equipped with the control systems of Bachmann electronics.

Hexcel Composites GmbH develops and produces materials for blades. Elin EBG Motoren GmbH expanded its production of generators in 2008. It established a joint venture with Suzlon in India. Windtec GmbH develops customized wind turbine concepts and helps its customers to set up their own production. They find their market mainly in the Far East. At the moment they are also working on a 10-MW wind turbine.

Other companies are benefiting from the booming world market for wind energy. Companies from traditional branches are now building wind power components, often unknown to the public, the trade unions, or even the wind energy association. Therefore in 2009, a new market analysis will be initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology.

Economic details

Since there were only a few wind turbines installed in 2008, it is difficult to tell the exact prices. Quotations from wind turbine manufacturers to developers for some defined projects include prices ranging from 1,400 €/kW to 1,800 €/kW for machines in the 2-MW, 100-m hub-height class.

National Incentive Programs

Back in 2003 to 2004, Austria had a working support system for wind energy development. The nationwide green electricity act (“Ökostromgesetz”) supported all kinds of renewables (except large hydro) with feed-in tariffs lasting 13 years. A boom was triggered in all kinds of renewables, but only projects that received their permission by the end of 2004 were supported. Those projects were completed through 2006. Since then, only a few wind turbines have been installed.

Since 2004 there has been discussion of amending the law. In 2006, an amendment brought deep cuts in the security for investors. Also the tariff was cut from 0.078 €/kWh to 0.075 €/kWh. After 2006, the law was amended three more times with the last decision in July 2008. For wind energy, this last amendment was seen at least as a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it has not yet come into power. In 2009, the discussion with the European Commission was still going on. It was not clear if a new cost ceiling for energy-intensive industries was in line with the EU regulation of state aid. According to the existing law the feedin tariff has to be lowered every year. The tariff for 2008 is 0.0743 €/kWh.

In the new (decided, not yet implemented) green electricity law there is a goal of 700 MW until 2015. But this goal can only be reached if great effort will be made in the next few years.

R, D&D Activities

In the last several years some studies where conducted in the field of wind energy potential (1) including studies on social acceptance of wind energy in Austria or integration of wind power through load management. Furthermore, the Energy Economics Group (EEG) of Vienna’s Technical University is working in many fields of renewable energy on the topics such as: costs, potential, grid integration etc. of renewable energies (2).

As stated above a new market survey is planned which will start in summer 2009. Its aim is to get a realistic overview of the economic activities in the Austrian wind sector. Another project wants to create a
wind atlas for Austria and a map and an estimation of the realistic wind potential. The same company, which is managing the Wind Atlas, “Energiewerkstatt Verein” wants to start to do more research work in the field of wind energy and cold climate.

The Next Term

A summary of expected and needed activities in 2009 will be presented by the Austrian Wind Energy Association, including expected growth, industrial trends, policy trends and planned R&D activities. The necessary components for continued or increased growth will be listed and any key lessons to learn or major trends of interest to decision makers identified.

It is likely that in 2009 no wind turbines will be installed in Austria. For increased capacity, an improved law is crucial, and also feed-in tariffs at the level of the other European states that encouraged wind energy development. It is not clear when a new law will come into force in Austria and whether it will help wind energy development.

On the other hand, the component suppliers are optimistic. Even with the difficult economic situation they expect to continue the very good growth rates of recent years. They have achieved this growth by recruiting new customers and increasing their share of the world market.


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Authors: Stefan Hantsch (Austrian Wind Energy Association) and Susanne Glanzegg (Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, Austria).