Branchen-News: Energie

Energy transition in Austria

Vienna is a leading European player in advancing sustainable energy sources and technologies. Swiss energy experts had a look behind the scenes.

Did you know that the Austrian capital, famous for its arts and architecture, is also home to one of Europe’s most advanced sustainable energy infrastructures? Taking advantage of this reputation, KLINGER Gysi invited customers from the district heating sector for the 15th time to gain an exclusive insight into Vienna’s energy networks. The August 2023 conference also provided delegates with an opportunity for exchanging ideas and to network with industry insiders.

The heart of Wiener Energie: Spittelau

One of the day’s key players was Alexander Kirchner, Business Area Manager at Vienna utility Wien Energie. As Austria’s largest waste incineration plant operator, the company uses a range of technologies – with one exception: nuclear power. “We’re proud of this fact,” says Alexander. District heating, introduced as early as the 1970s, is now largely generated by waste incineration. The company plans a shake-up of its portfolio by 2040, in which large-scale heat pumps, geothermal energy and combined heat and power (CHP) plants for hydrogen play a major role.

The story of the Spittelau waste incineration plant is characterized by transformation. On 15 May 1987, a devastating fire destroyed much of the facility.

“But instead of retiring the plant, it was renovated and rose from the ashes in 1992. As well as introducing modern technology, this transformation catalyzed a change of mindset in the population: waste incineration can be sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

Christine Wenzl, Head of Department at Wien Energie’s Spittelau and Flötzersteig waste incineration plants

And Vienna’s district heating network has been steadily growing ever since.

Fire always has a certain magnetic attraction; what’s burning here is the waste of Vienna’s population.

Insights and a grand view at the waste incineration plant

During a guided tour of Wien Energie’s Spittelau waste incineration plant, the 35 plus participants were able to gain an insight as well as enjoying a wonderful view. The facts:

»    The plant receives up to 220 deliveries of waste per day.
»    One grapple can grab up to three tons of waste.
»    Up to 18 tons of waste are incinerated per hours.
»    They provide a calorific value of ten to eleven megajoules.

Deep below Vienna’s roads, in the old tunnels of the former Stadtbahn urban railway, we find the district cooling center. From there, the visitors climb countless steps up to the control center, from where they can get a clear overview of everything. Everything? Not quite: the best overview is afforded by the roof of the Spittelau plant, with its breathtaking vista of the city.

A Swiss delegation traveled to Vienna to learn more about the exemplary solutions implemented at Wien Energie and Wiener Netze. In the background: The familiar tower of the Spittelau waste incineration plant, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

In addition to electricity, district cooling uses exhaust heat from waste incineration. That is why Wien Energie’s district cooling center is located next door to the waste incineration plant.

An exchange with added value

What the delegates have in common is that they all trust in KLINGER valves. Utility Energie Wasser Bern, for example, is planning to expand its district heating network with 36 kilometers of main and distribution pipes, scheduled for completion in 2035. The only woman in the Swiss delegation, Jasmine Hostettler, project manager and specialist for district heating at Energie Wasser Bern, was impressed:

“This is my first time here, but we have been using the KLINGER KHO and Ballostar KHI ball valves for high-temperature applications for decades. The exchange with our Swiss colleagues and the technical input of our colleagues in Vienna perfectly round off the district heating conference.”

Jasmine Hostettler, project manager and head of district heating at Energie Wasser Bern, (on the right in the picture) valued the exchange with fellow experts.

In the Weitblick area of Solothurn, an energy hub is being built to supply the low-temperature grid. “The city of Solothurn is looking to the future. And KLINGER valves, which are also used in the city’s district heating network, are a part of that future. Vienna ’s infrastructure is much  larger in comparison and all the more impressive for it,“ says Andrew Lochbrunner, Head of Water and District Heating Networks at Regio Energie Solothurn.

For Andrew Lochbrunner, Head of Water and District Heating Networks at Regio Energie Solothurn, (second from left in the picture), the visit to the Gumpoldskirchen plant confirmed the quality of KLINGER ball valves.

In Lucerne, energy supplier ewl Luzern is tasked with constructing and operating the city’s district heating plants.

“We supply the city of Lucerne as well as surrounding towns and villages. We have been working with district heating for about ten years now, but even before that, KLINGER valves had already proven their worth in the gas and water sectors. The district heating conference provides an excellent opportunity for an invaluable exchange.”

Jörg Hoffmann, Head of Projects at ewl Lucerne, looks at a waste depot that will provide energy for Vienna.

High up in the Simmering power station

Another highlight on the agenda was a visit to Vienna’s Simmering power station – a thermal power plant that was built in 1902 and mainly generates electricity. The 200-meter-high chimney stack is among one of Vienna’s most prominent landmarks. The facts:

»    The biomass plant can burn one truckload of wood per hour.
»    One truckload is 40 cubic meters of wood.
»    This generates 24 megawatts (MW) of electrical power.
»    The fresh wood is sourced withing a radius of 100 kilometers.

Contacts mentioned in the article:

Gerhard Praxmarer, Sales Manager at KLINGER Gebetsroither

Franz Xaver Gruber, Managing Director of KLINGER Fluid Control

Jean-Pierre Dreyer, Head of District Heating at KLINGER Gysi

Daniel Läubli, Managing Director of KLINGER Gysi

Controlling the Wien Energie district heating load distributor

Once generated, the energy must be channeled to households and businesses. The staff at Wien Energie’s control center make sure that the energy distribution runs smoothly and customers are not affected by any disruptions. The control center is the network’s hub. Here, all of the important communication processes to do with heat generation and heat distribution converge.

Gerald Wustinger is Head of District Heating and Hydropower Load Distribution at Wien Energie. His department coordinates the security of supply of heat for its district heating customers. From the control center, his staff can also control the KLINGER ball valves and shut down parts of the primary district heating network if needed. “Vienna’s primary district heating network is ring-shaped and designed for a pressure of 25 to 32 bars. As we have a total height differential of 110 meters within the network, we have to bridge a pressure of 11 bars,” says Gerald.

Challenges in heat distribution

As well as coordinating heat distribution in the primary district network, Gerald’s team also controls the required upstream processes, such as managing supply schedules as heat demand changes. “Like Swissgrid in Switzerland, the tasks of Austrian Power Grid (APG) include maintaining a balanced power grid. When energy is drawn from Wien Energie’s CHP plants, this also affects the heat generation planning for the primary district heating network. Other factors affecting operations in the primary district heating network include the weather, overhauls, malfunctions, technical and legal requirements, and network restrictions,” explains Gerald . The facts:

»    Total length of Vienna’s district heating pipework: approx. 1,200 kilometers. That’s about the distance from Vienna to Stockholm.
»    Currently, around 36 to 38 percent of Wien Energie’s customers are connected to the district heating network .
»    Wien Energie aims to cover around 56 percent of Vienna’s heating requirements with district heating by 2040.

From left to right: Gerhard Praxmarer (Sales Manager at KLINGER Gebetsroither), Gerald Wustinger (Head of District Heating and Hydropower Load Distribution at Wien Energie) and Daniel Läubli (Managing Director of KLINGER Gysi) visit the control center of the load distributor.

District heating in DACH region hotting up

“The energy transition has begun. And we will only succeed in pulling it off if we all work together. The ball valves from KLINGER Fluid Control can play a key role here. As we can see from the large turnout at the Swiss District Heating Conference, Switzerland is investing extensively in district heating,” says Xaver Gruber, Managing Director of KLINGER Fluid Control, emphasizing the importance of dialog and cooperation during the visit of the Swiss delegation to the Gumpoldskirchen plant.

The last station of the 15th Swiss district heating conference was a visit to the works of KLINGER Fluid Control in Gumpoldskirchen.

Across borders

Jean-Pierre Dreyer , Head of District Heating at KLINGER Gysi, put together an extensive three-day program for his Swiss industry colleagues. Summarizing the conference, Daniel Läubli, Managing Director of KLINGER Gysi, says: “I am very pleased that our Swiss district heating conference in Vienna always brings together important operators, planners and pipeline builders in lively discussion to conceive smart solutions in district heating. Because we are convinced that the energy transition will only succeed if we work together. At KLINGER Gysi, we are very pleased to make a small contribution to this transition.”

Fact box

Did you know ...

  •   that the total length of Wiener Netze’s networks is 28,500 kilometers? That equals the distance from Vienna to Sydney and back. They distribute gas, water , electricity and, more recently, hydrogen to Vienna’s households and businesses. 
  • that ball valves from KLINGER Fluid Control can be used in district heating as well as in district cooling? The KLINGER ball valves Monoball KHO and Ballostar KHI withstand pressures of up to 40 bars and are available in nominal sizes from DN15 to DN1000.
  • that Vienna’s district cooling network is 24 kilometers long? It runs a similar course to the district heating network. 
  •  that 60 percent of the total amount of energy needed per year comes from fossil energy?
  • that the first geothermal plant, located in Vienna’s Aspern district and with a capacity of around 25 megawatts will be connected to the grid in 2027? Geothermal energy is the heat energy stored in the earth’s core, and its utilization requires drilling to depths of up to 3,500 meters.
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