In this part of the expert interviews series we spoke to Mr. Martin Steininger, CEO of Windkraft Simonsfeld.
The wind power Simonsfeld is one of the largest wind turbine manufacturer in Austria, operates 60 wind power plants in Austria and two plants in Bulgaria. Wind and solar power plants are developed and operated in Austria and Central and South Eastern Europe. The company was founded in 1996 and is headquartered in Simonsfeld, Lower Austria.
How do you assess the status of wind power in Austria in international comparison?
In Austria, wind power is currently being expanded massively. The government has set itself the goal of tripling the installed wind power capacity by 2020. In 2012 so many wind power plants were installed in Austria as never before. This trend will certainly continue for several years. The expansion targets set for wind power are likely to be achieved earlier than planned. At the moment, a large number of projects are being carried out by the domestic wind power sector with high pressure - the wind power Simonsfeld AG currently has 33 wind power stations in approval procedures. In the coming years, we want to double our annual production with these power plants.
In addition to Austria, Simonsfeld wind power is active in Bulgaria and Romania with a planned and several planned projects. In Romania, we have all permits for the construction of 28 wind power stations. In Bulgaria, we have already operated two wind farms and are driving the license for 19 more in the same area.
Do you see an upper limit for the available, economically viable locations in Austria?
The best wind power plants in Austria are already used for electricity production. The new, larger generation of plants that are now pushing onto the market also makes it possible to use less good locations. In the Weinviertel the network accesses will be a bottleneck in the foreseeable future. There are currently significantly more planned wind turbines than feed - in facilities in our core region. This will be a challenge for all project developers. The expansion will therefore slow down in the Weinviertel in two to three years.
How do you assess the state of the art in wind power? Are major development steps expected?
Currently, the changeover from 2 MW wind turbines (WKA) to 3 MW turbines is taking place. This trend will continue. 3 MW plants will establish themselves as a standard size. Larger plants will not be in my opinion in the width. Developments are still to be expected in the case of flight length and transmission.
Where do you see the Austrian wind power industry in an international comparison?
In Austria, there are some companies that are internationally well-versed in business. The focus is on the supplier industry, for example in the area of control technology or wing components. There are Austrian companies in the international top field.
The challenge for plant operators in the coming years will be the marketing of wind power. There will be some installations in the future that can not make any more funding. An economic operation at the given market prices will become a big issue. The operators have to decide whether old plants will continue to be operated or whether these wind parks will be dismantled and new plants built up at the same location. In the second case, higher and more efficient machines are connected to the grid. Power and electricity production can be considerably increased at many locations.
What developments do you expect from the EU in the field of wind power?
In the next few years, it will be decided whether the "Energiewende" and renewable energy carriers will make a breakthrough or fail shortly before the target. Many fossil power stations will simply be no longer economical under the new conditions. I think that in the next few years photovoltaics will become a standard in the construction sector. Wind power will play a decisive role for the energy market - in Europe and worldwide.
How do you assess the economic conditions for the construction of wind power plants in Austria?
Without subsidies, it is hardly possible to operate WKAs economically at the current low prices at the markets. Although the productivity of WKA is increasing steadily, no significant changes are expected in the production costs. For the foreseeable future, we are therefore assuming that wind power will only be expanded strongly where attractive energy policy conditions prevail.
What is currently being researched in the area of wind power?
At the manufacturer's end, attempts are being made to make WKA larger and lighter, as well as to minimize material use. Furthermore, the optimization of the grid compatibility is carried out so that the entire wind turbine does not have to be switched off immediately in the event of a mains failure.
For operators, it is important to optimize processes (monitoring, performance curves, etc.) in order to achieve higher yields. Furthermore, the downtime of the plant for service purposes is minimized via a status check (diagnosis of machine states). In this context we have a research project with the Vienna University of Technology. The long-term goal must be that the service of the wind turbine is similar to the routine service of a car.
What innovations are expected in the next few years in the field of wind energy?
Innovation leaps, such as occur in the PV, can not be foreseen in wind power. In the transmission sector, innovations can occur in the coming years, for example, in the direction of driveless drive trains.
Furthermore, the storage arithmetic is becoming more and more important. If wind turbines can be stored efficiently and without losses directly in the wind farm, this would have a very positive effect on wind power utilization. One possible concept is the conversion of the wind energy into hydrogen.
What role does photovoltaics currently play in wind power Simonsfeld?
At the moment, photovoltaics is a companion measure for wind power Simonsfeld. In areas where we are active with wind power, we also offer the municipalities the erection of photovoltaic plants. At the moment, wind power Simonsfeld is not striving to expand this business area comprehensively.
What challenges do you see for the future of wind power Simonsfeld AG? What are your goals for which time horizon?
In general, the financing of future projects will be the biggest challenge in the coming years. The wind power Simonsfeld will double the installed capacity in the next few years. It will be a challenge to acquire the necessary capital through citizenship as there are considerable sums in the game. Banks' financing is becoming increasingly difficult, as many institutions have already invested large sums in wind power and become more cautious in the sense of risk-sharing. On the other hand, the situation is generally tense due to the economic crisis and many investors are looking for sensible and attractive investment opportunities. With our off-exchange equities, investors are able to participate directly in a wind turbine manufacturer in an attractive growth phase. In the previous year, we made first, very positive experiences as issuers of a bond. Despite an increase in the volume, our bond was quickly surpassed. We are also planning to finance the next projects in some cases via bonds.
Lehre als Elektriker
Angestellter der Maschinenbaufirma Heid AG in Stockerau
Nebenerwerbs-Landwirt mit 40 Hektar Ackerland
1996: Gründung der Windkraft Simonsfeld GmbH & Co KG
1998: Inbetriebnahme von zwei Windkraftwerken in Simonsfeld
Aufsichtsratsvorsitzender der WEB Windenergie AG von 1999 bis 2005
2009: Vorstand Windkraft Simonsfeld AG