Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

by Rocky Mountain Institute

Güssing, Austria
Güssing, Austria, goes the sustainable energy route — and saves millions of dollars on conventional energy costs, and is now the model town for sustainable development in Austria.

Originally published on the Rocky Mountain Institute website.
By Laurie Guevara-​Stone.

A small town in Austria that had no significant industry or trade business is now thriving thanks to local renewable resources. Güssing, (population: 4,000) sits in eastern Austria. In 1988, the entire region with a population of 27,000, was one of the poorest districts in the country. It relied on agriculture, there was no transportation infrastructure, unemployment was high, and 70 percent of those who did have work were commuting to Vienna, 100 miles away. The town, where two-thirds of the working population was out of work and young people were moving away, was referred to as a dying town. Due to a lack of connections to the railway network and to the Austrian Autobahn (freeway) system, energy costs were extremely high. At the time the town of Güssing was said to be hardly able to afford its $8.1 million annual fossil fuel bill.

Several of the town leaders realized that $8 million dollars going to pay for fuel oil (mostly for heating) and other fossil fuels (such as coal for electricity) from outside the region could stay in the local economy if they could produce their own energy. However, they realized if they wanted to be energy self-sufficient the first step was reducing energy use. In 1990, the town implemented an energy efficiency program, retrofitting all public buildings with new insulation and replacing all streetlights with energy-efficient bulbs, reducing energy expenditure in buildings in the town center by almost 50 percent.

With greatly improved efficiency, the town then adopted a policy calling for the complete elimination of the use of fossil fuels in all public buildings, in an attempt to keep more money in the local economy.

HEATING WITH LOCAL RESOURCES

Güssing, Austria biomass thermal power plant
Güssing, Austria. Readily accessible biomass is found in the surrounding forest, is collected and used to produce thermal heat/steam to create natural gas via a unique process.

There is not a lot of wind in Güssing, but biomass is abundant—the town is surrounded by 133 hectares (328 acres) of forest. Some local residents, realizing that wood in the forest was decomposing and not being used, started to run a district heating station for six homes. With the success of that project, more small district heating systems were built. The mayor, who was looking for a way to revitalize the town, took notice. In 1996, the heating system was expanded to the whole town and was also generating electricity, all from renewable raw materials gathered from within a five-kilometer radius through sustainable forestry practices.

Then, in 2001, with the help of the federal government, Güssing installed a biomass gasification plant, that runs off of wood chips from wood thinned from the forest and waste wood from a wooden flooring company. This was the first utility-scale power plant of its kind in the world. The plant uses steam to separate carbon and hydrogen, then recombines the molecules to make a form of natural gas which fuels the city’s power plant. It produces on average 2 megawatts of electricity and 4.5 megawatts of heat, more than enough energy for the town’s needs, while only consuming one-third of the biomass that grows every year. The town also has a plant that converts rapeseed to biodiesel, which is carried by all the fueling stations in the district.

BECOMING A MODEL COMMUNITY

In 2007 the New York Times reported Güssing was the first community in the European Union to cut carbon emissions by more than 90 percent, helping it attract a steady stream of scientists, politicians, and eco-tourists. One year later, Güssing built a research institute focusing on thermal and biological gasification and production of second-generation fuels. That same year a solar manufacturer started producing PV modules in Güssing, producing 850 megawatts of modules a year and employing 140 people. Several other photovoltaic and solar thermal companies have relocated to Güssing, installing new demonstration facilities in the district.

The little town has become a net energy producer—generating more energy from renewables than it uses. Altogether, there are more than 30 power plants using renewable energy technologies within 10 kilometers of the village. Now the goal is to take the lessons from the small town of Güssing and make the entire 27,000-person district an energy-self-sufficient net producer.

Currently around 400 people come to Güssing each week to visit the numerous demonstration plants.

Even Austria’s favorite celebrity, former California governor, and renewable energy advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Güssing in 2012. “Güssing has become a green island,” he said when he spoke at the Güssing renewable energy demonstration plant. “You have built your own district heating [system]. You are generating your own electricity. You are operating a biomass power plant, produce synthetic natural gas from wood and develop new fuels at the research lab. I have seen all of this with my own eyes. Everyone should follow your example. The whole world should become Güssing.”

The town now has 60 new companies, 1,500 new jobs, and annual revenues of $17 million due to energy sales, all resulting from the growth of the renewable energy sector. The downtown has been rebuilt and young people now picture themselves staying there in the future. And other areas are following Güssing’s lead. More than 15 regions in Austria are now energy independent with regard to electricity, heating, and/or transportation. The town of Güssing has shown that not only is a high-renewables future possible, but also economically advantageous.

Schwarzenegger must agree, because when he left he said, “I’ll be back.”

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock. Second Image courtesy of Güssing Renewable Energy.

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This article, Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Rocky Mountain Institute Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.

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Biomass Gets A Slice Of Army’s $7 Billion Renewable Energy Pie

by Tina Casey

Courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers.

We’ve been following the US Army Corps of Engineers’ ambitious $7 billion renewable energy plan, and it looks like the first round of contracts has concluded with smooth sailing. The public-private initiative will use Department of Defense properties as sites for utility scale solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass facilities that will be built and operated by private companies. DoD in turn will benefit from access to cheaper, safer, more reliable power. The first three areas were awarded earlier this year, with biomass bringing up the rear.

Since the facilities will be built under power purchase agreements, the US taxpayer does not bear any up-front costs (the figure of $7 billion refers to the value of the energy).

$7 Billion For Renewable Energy

As with the other three areas, the biomass awards are what DoD calls Multiple Award Task Order Contracts, which are typically used for engineering and architecture services. Basically, it’s a way to streamline the contracting procedure by pre-qualifying bidders, before the actual jobs are identified.

That will depend on site assessments and analysis for cost-effective opportunities to convert biomass, including municipal solid waste, to energy. Once the sites are identified, the next step is for USACE to issue competitive request-for-proposals to the eligible bidders.

The streamlined procedure puts the Corps of Engineers in synch with the Army’s new Energy Initiatives Task Force, a team of experts who have the experience to package utility-scale facilities at Army bases. That relieves individual base commanders from having to reinvent the wheel with every new project.

The companies tapped for biomass including the heavy hitters Honeywell International and Siemens Government Technologies, along with Acciona Energy North America Corporation, ECC Renewables LLC, EDF Renewable Energy, Emerald Infrastructure, Energy Answers International Inc., EIF United States Power Fund IV L.P., Energy Management Inc., Energy Systems Group LLC, MidAmerican/Clark JV, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc., and Stronghold Engineering Inc.

Don’t Forget The Solar Power

We’ve already covered DoD’s wind and geothermal contracts under the $7 billion initiative, but somehow we skipped over solar so let’s catch up with that.

The solar power part was awarded this past August. This group also includes some familiar players in the renewable energy and utility fields, including Borrego Solar, Dominion Energy Inc., Enel Green Power North America, Johnson Controls Government Systems, NRG Energy Inc., Siemens Government Technologies Inc., and Sunpower Corporation.

If Borrego Solar rings a bell, last year we profiled one of its project managers, former Army Captain Jon Gensler, who eloquently described the consequences of military oil dependency as reflected in the new documentary, The Burden.

As for why DoD is in such a big hurry to get $7 billion worth of renewable energy projects in the ground, even the anti-climate science think tank American Enterprise Institute has come around to the idea that dependency on a globalized energy market – namely, the petroleum market – is a disruptive force and a drag on the economy, to say nothing of an increasing burden on the Department of Defense.

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This article, Biomass Gets A Slice Of Army’s $7 Billion Renewable Energy Pie, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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