Sustainable Cities™

Vienna: Biomass power plant

In 2006, Europe's largest wood biomass power plant was built in Vienna, Austria. It provides heat for 12.000 and electricity for 48.000 households. The 52 million euros investment aimed for a reduction in CO2 emissions, an increase in renewable energy and a rethinking of the city's technological approach. The biomass power plant in Vienna shows that the realisation of a large scale project is possible due to intelligent logistics and specific economic conditions.

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Wien biobrændselsanlæg. Foto venligst udlånt af ÖBf-Archiv/ SWH

In 2001, the City of Vienna and the major energy supplier Wien Energie began to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of a biomass power plant based on a political agreement between the Green Party and the Social Democratic Party, which has an absolute majority in the city council. At the beginning there was a lot of scepticism to the idea that wood biomass can be a source of energy in a large city. But research and an excursion to different projects in Scandinavia provided inspiration and detailed knowledge on conditions and logistics. One could say that Copenhagen as the starting point for the excursion was crucial for the decision making on the Vienna project.

The construction of a combined heat and power plant is located in Vienna´s 11th district, Simmering. The infrastructure for electricity and heat supply was already in place; the accessibility by rail and road has been another important argument for this site. In 2006, the power plant with a maximum capacity of 66 MW was brought on line. It now provides heat for 12.000 and electricity for 48.000 households and works at over 80% efficiency on average.

Wood for biomass, courtesy of ÖBf-Archiv/ SWH

Generating a comparable amount of heat and electricity is equivalent to the use of e.g. 72.000 tons of hard coal or around 45.000 tons of fuel oil. Compared to conventionally produced fossil energy the biomass power plant reduces approximately 144.000 tons of CO2 emissons per year.

The Austrian National Forest Company, which is co-owner of the biomass power plant, provides the year-round supply of wood biomass. 245.000 solid cubic meters, that is approximately 600.000 cubic meters fill volume (srm), comes from forests in a radius of 100 kilometres. So there is regional value added. The biomass is transported by train or truck, gets manufactured at the chipping yard of Vienna Albern in accordance with high quality requirements and is then delivered ready-to-use to the power plant.

The production of electricity from biomass gets subsidies by a higher feed-in tarif. Without these subsidies which are guaranteed by law, the biomass power plant would not have been possible.

Economic subsidies

Without a guaranteed feed-in tariff, a project like the biomass power plant would not have been possible. As the Law on Electricity from Renewable Energy (Ökostromgesetz) has been changed several times, the calculation basis did not remain the same during the planning stage. For larger scale projects investors need to know the political strategy, economic conditions and subsidies. The lack of continuity in political decision making on renewable energy does not make it easier.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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