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Wind Energy
Questions and Answers

Strong Arguments for Wind Energy

Climate Protection

If we want to avert climate disaster, we need to fundamentally change our energy system and use renewable energies instead of coal, oil and gas.

The wind won’t charge you.

Wind power is available in Austria at no charge.

Wind energy is efficient

A single state-of-the-art wind power plant generates electricity for 4,000 households a year.

Creating jobs

Currently, more than 3,700 people in 180 companies work in the Austrian wind energy sector.

Using an Austrian energy source

In 2019, Austria spent more than 12 billion euros on energy imports. Using green Austrian energy sources would help us reduce our dependence on energy imports.


Questions and Answers

How does a wind power plant work?

How does a wind power plant work?

A wind power plant uses a rotor to extract energy from wind. The wind makes the rotor rotate. The rotor’s kinetic energy is then transformed into electricity using a generator which works in a similar way as a bicycle’s dynamo. The electric energy is then fed into the grid. A wind turbine’s height plays an essential role. The higher it is, the stronger and the more consistently will the wind blow, thus generating more electricity.

Larger plants – higher outputClose to the ground, the air is very turbulent, as it gets swirled while it flows over obstacles. At a greater distance from the ground, the wind blows more consistently and strongly. Rule of thumb: with every additional metre from the ground, the electricity output will increase by one percent. The area that rotor blades will cover while rotating has an impact on the plant’s energy output: a twofold increase of the blade length will result in a fourfold increase of the plant’s output.

Types of wind turbines:

Essentially, there are two types of wind turbines available on the market: with and without gear boxes.

  • Plants without gear boxes

In plants of this type, the generator is an integral part of the rotor. It rotates at the same speed as the rotor and, thus, has to be quite big. Like a bicycle’s dynamo, it generates electricity out of the rotary movement. 

  • Plants with gear boxes

In this kind of plant, a gear box is disposed between the rotor and the generator. This makes it possible to use a smaller generator which will rotate faster than the rotor: even up to 100 times faster.

The economic importance of wind power in Austria

The economic importance of wind power in Austria

Wind power has become economically important in Austria:

  • In 2021, more than 3,700 people worked permanently in the Austrian wind energy sector.
  • 180 companies in Austria are producers or service providers working mainly in the field of wind electricity generation.
  • In 2020, 12 percent of the electricity generated in Austria was produced using wind power.
  • In that year, the annual value creation in the wind energy sector amounted to 1.4 billion euros, including the industrial production of plant components and their installation in Austria. 3.3 billion euros were earned with electricity production in Austria.
  • Wind power plant operators make a profit with their power plants. Just like other entrepreneurs. If you draw the balance at the end of the year, taking into account costs and revenues, the result should be positive. The profits also pay employees’ wages.
Is it possible to acquire financial interests in wind power plants?

Wind power plant operators make a profit with their power plants. Just like other entrepreneurs. If you draw the balance at the end of the year, taking into account costs and revenues, the result should be positive. The profits also pay employees’ wages.

Currently, there are approx. 4,000 permanent jobs in the wind energy sector in Austria. In addition, there are also many jobs in the construction and supply industries. Windkraft Simonsfeld sees itself as a company in which citizens can participate. We want to offer everyone the opportunity of investing in the use of renewable energies. We do that by offering shares and thus co-ownership, voting rights and a share in our company’s profits. We also offer bonds at fixed interest rates to participate in our company’s growth for a defined period of time. So far, more than 3,000 people have taken up these offers and invested in our contribution to the energy revolution. More than 2,000 of them are shareholders who operate power plants with us.

Wind turbines dominate the landscape.

Yes, wind turbines are impressive and conspicuous power plants. We usually construct large, high-performance wind power plants, because it is essential that we efficiently use wind for power generation in regions with a lot of wind.

Agriculture, forestry, industrial development or urbanisation: human needs have always had a defining impact on the appearance of landscapes. Only a hundred years ago, windmills were still a common sight in the Austrian Weinviertel region. In the course of the Industrial Revolution, they were then replaced by steam engines. Whether we feel that a building causes disruption of the landscape around it often largely depends on what we are used to. Surveys show that younger people are generally more open for wind turbines in their vicinity than elder generations. For them, wind turbines are just part of the landscape, like high-voltage lines, silos and smokestacks. They have grown up with these defining parts of the landscape and are thus used to them.

Wind energy and tourism

Innovative municipalities and restaurants use wind farms as tourist attractions. In the region around Lake Neusiedl, tourists can, for example, attend guided wind farm tours. The number of overnight stays in the tourist region around Lake Neusiedl has even significantly increased over the past 20 years.

While many naysayers predicted a detrimental influence of the expansion of wind energy production on the Parndorf Plain on tourism, the wind turbines have obviously not impaired this positive development. We cooperate with tourism associations, municipalities and companies in the Weinviertel region to make wind farms accessible for interested tourists. For example, we supported the tourism association of the town of Poysdorf in constructing the Wind.Rad.Route cycle route, installing information boards along the ten kilometre route around our wind farm and co-financing resting spots for the cyclists.

“In Velo Veritas” is a showcase example of a sports event for tourists in the Weinviertel region: this popular bike event enjoys cult status and is the second largest bike event in Austria. Several hundred cycling fans get to discover the beautiful Weinviertel region on classic steel road bikes. There are some sections of the route which take the cyclists through our wind farms, thus bringing together wind power, biking, tourism and sports for all.

Wind power and health

The generation of wind power does not produce any exhaust gases and does not use any water. It is climate-neutral and counts among the environmentally friendly power generation technologies. A study carried out by GLOBAL 2000 and HEAL (Health and Environment Alliance) found that, by comparison, burning coal is responsible for over a hundred deaths and associated costs of several hundred million euros in Austria every year. The Austrian Medical Chamber and the German Environment Agency have published position papers stating that electricity generation using wind power has a clear benefit for both the environment and health. You can find the German version of the studies at:


Sound and infrasound

One thing is clear: wind turbines have to rotate in order to generate electricity. When the blades are moving through the air and pass the tower, you will hear a consistent whooshing noise. However, technological progress and clear legal provisions have made sure that modern wind turbines cause so little noise that you won’t be able to hear it as soon as you are a few hundred metres away. There is a strict legal framework for the approval of wind turbines in each of Austria’s federal provinces.

The approval procedure includes comprehensive checks of regional sound levels. The construction of wind power plants is only approved if their operating noise does not cause any substantial increase of the prevailing sound level at night. The sound level is measured at several points in the respective area. The results are verified and evaluated by independent experts of the provincial authorities. It is also possible for the plants to be operated in a low-noise mode under certain weather conditions and during certain times of the day. Normally, the sound of the rotating rotor blades will be drowned out by natural ambient sounds like the rustling of leaves anyway.

Modern wind turbines will cause an operating noise of approx. 105 dB directly at the hub. At a distance of 500 metres, the sound is only approx. 45 dB, which is about the volume of a lively discussion.


Humans can only hear a certain range of frequencies: approximately between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. Above this range, we speak of ultrasound, which corresponds to the frequencies that bats use for navigating, for example. Sounds below 20 Hz are referred to as infrasound. There are many natural infrasound sources, such as wind flows, thunderstorms, sea surfs, but also many technical sources, such as heating and air conditioning systems, compressors, means of transport or wind power plants. Elephants and whales use infrasound to communicate over great distances. Long-term studies have shown that infrasound below the threshold of perceptibility (below 16 Hz at approx. 130 dB) does not have any detectable impact on the human organism. Already at a distance of only a few metres, the infrasound generated by wind power plants is no longer perceptible. At a distance of 1,200 metres, the infrasound generated by wind turbines can hardly be measured and is thus completely harmless.

Climate protection and the environment

Climate protection: no more excuses!

The climate is changing dramatically. The five hottest years on record were all recorded within the last twenty years. Our planet is getting hotter. Extreme weather events like torrential rains and tropical heat are becoming more frequent. In the Austrian Weinviertel region, we are already experiencing consequences of increasing temperatures and longer drought periods. Forestry in Austria is at risk; agriculture faces many challenges caused by unprecedented droughts.

The younger generation is angry and vents their anger. Young people have understood that their future is at stake. The climate catastrophe threatens their quality of life. Initiatives like Fridays for Future take to the streets in protest against climate injustice. The protestors’ banners read “The Planet is Burning!” and “There is no Planet B!” What are the central demands of the climate protestors? “We have to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels quickly and consistently. We have to use much more renewable energies, before it is too late.” We can still stop the climate catastrophe from fully unfolding. A comprehensive reorganisation of our energy system is key and wind power plays a central role in achieving it. It is thus extremely important that we use existing and dedicated locations as efficiently as possible for the green generation of electricity.

What impact does wind power have on the environment?

Taking into account the plants’ service life, wind power causes by far the lowest CO2 emissions of all energy sources. For the construction of our Poysdorf-Wilfersdorf V wind farm in 2021, we commissioned a comprehensive site-specific life cycle assessment, evaluating all environmental impacts associated with the manufacturing, assembly, operation and dismantling of the wind turbines. This is what the assessment found: Wind power only produces 8.5 to 12.5 g of CO2 per generated kWh of electricity. Emissions are mainly caused during manufacturing (steel and concrete for the foundations). The operation of wind power plants as such does not cause any emissions. The life cycle assessment also confirmed the high energy efficiency of wind power: it just takes 13 months for wind power plants to generate as much energy as was used for their production, construction and dismantling. Over a service life of 20 years, they will thus produce 18 times more energy than they use. Additionally, 89 percent of every wind turbine can be recycled. We also found that there is still potential for improvement. In the future, we want to tap this potential and take it into account in the plans for our next wind farms. Please find a German summary of the results here

Wind power, hydropower and solar power – energy sources for the future

Winter is the season when power consumption peaks. Unfortunately, winter is also the season when hydropower generates the lowest outputs. Households need more electricity for light and heat pumps. More than 50 percent of electricity in Austria is produced in thermal power plants that run on imported natural gas. In recent years, electricity imports increased significantly in winter, which means that we need coal-fired and nuclear power plants in other countries to guarantee our security of power supply.

The good news is: two thirds of electricity generated by wind power is produced during the winter months, making wind power the perfect complement to hydropower. Energy-saving measures and the targeted development of renewable energies would allow Austria to cover its entire electricity demand in a sustainable way. The goal of the federal government and the provincial government of Lower Austria is to produce all the electricity needed in Austria using Austrian renewable energy sources by 2030.

Is bird protection taken into account when planning new wind farms?

We select new wind farm sites carefully and in a targeted way, trying to protect the habitats and migration areas of birds. The construction of wind power plants in nature and bird protection reserves is prohibited by law. All wind power projects involve comprehensive studies on local bird and bat populations, also focusing on the behaviour of migratory birds. The migration and food habits of migratory birds are usually studied in spring and autumn. Based on the results of these studies, which are carried out by experts, it is decided whether wind farm projects comply with the provisions of nature conservation legislation and will thus be approved.

It has been shown that only a few bird species clearly avoid wind power plants once they are in operation. If wind farm sites are selected carefully, the risk of mass collisions can be avoided even under poor visibility conditions. As comprehensive studies on birds and bats are carried out as part of the approval procedure and the results of these studies are taken into account in the planning process, the impact of wind farms on the breeding and feeding behaviour of rare species is generally limited.

Do wind turbines have an influence on the behaviour of wild animals?

A three-year study of the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW) of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover has shown that wind power plants have negligible impact on the behaviour of deer, foxes, hares and partridges. Even though wild animals and livestock usually avoid busy construction sites, it generally only takes a short time for them to move back to their original habitats after the completion of construction works. Also, they usually adjust very well to the presence of new wind power plants. Most hunters agree that wind turbines do not seriously impact huntable ground game.

Recycling – what happens at the end of a plant’s service life?

Wind power plants have a limited service life. At the end of their planned service life, the sites in areas with strong winds will usually continue to be used for wind power generation. This means that the old turbines will be dismantled and new wind power plants will be constructed on the same site. Wind turbines of newer generations are usually capable of using the power of the wind even more efficiently, which is why it often happens that not all old wind turbines that are dismantled in a wind farm are then replaced by new turbines.

This year, Windkraft Simonsfeld is dismantling the third wind farm in the history of this company, only to construct more efficient high-performance wind turbines in the same area. In dismantling the power stations, we are making sure we don’t leave anything behind: rotor blades, power houses and towers are dismantled and carted off. They are either re-assembled at a new site and operated there or their components are used as spare parts for wind power plants of the same type that are still in operation. We also crush the concrete foundations to pieces and remove them from the ground. The crushed concrete blocks are either recycled as construction material or used for road construction. The piles driven into the ground for the purpose of stability are also removed and dismantled up to a depth of 1.5 metres.

Are rare earth elements used in wind power plants?

Rare earths are a group of 17 elements with similar properties. They are used in various industrial products, including LCD/LED monitors, smart phones, notebooks, hard disk drives, but also in the glass industry.

Wind power plants that were installed before 2007 are generally free from rare earth elements. Some types of modern wind power plants use strong magnets produced from the rare earth element neodymium. In Austria, 9 out of more than 1,300 wind power plants are equipped with such permanent magnets. Depending on the types of plants that are going to be installed in the future, this number could, of course, increase. A vast majority of future wind power plant types will, however, not use any rare earth elements.

Legal & Technical Information

What are the stages of the approval procedure for wind power plants?

Generally, there are two options: either each individual subject matter is examined in an individual procedure (“Einzelverfahren”) or a consolidated environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure is carried out. In an EIA procedure, all subject matters are examined in one public hearing involving all parties.

Which criteria are assessed in an EIA procedure?

All relevant questions are investigated (relating to noise, shade, ornithology, etc.)

Protected assets examined in an EIA procedure include: groundwater, soil, air, health / well-being, appearance of the area / tourism, landscape, nature protection / ornithology, use as residential or building land, transport, forestry, hunting, recreation, agriculture

What are the minimum distances to residential and building land?

Provincial governments are responsible for determining the minimum distances of wind power plants to residential buildings and building plots. The following provisions apply in the province of Lower Austria:

  • In the same municipality: at least 1,200 metres to residential land.
  • 750 metres to residential buildings on farms, buildings worthy of preservation in grassland, garden plots and camp sites.
  • In neighbouring municipalities: 2,000 metres to residential land. If the neighbouring municipality agrees, this distance can be reduced to 1,200 metres. This means that the provisions for minimum distances in Lower Austria count among the strictest in Europe.
How much space does a wind power plant use?

Existing roads and agricultural areas are used for constructing and operating wind power plants.

Windkraft Simonsfeld uses mainly existing roads for providing access to its wind farms. For better driving conditions on the roads under all weather conditions, we are investing in the roads in close cooperation with those responsible for their maintenance. Our infrastructure improvement measures usually also benefit local communities, allowing them to save on maintenance. The roads also make it easier for local farmers to work their land. During the construction phase, the curve radius of a road may have to be temporarily increased for large goods vehicles. Some of these measures will then be reversed after the completion of the construction works.

The area required for a wind power plant depends on the specific type employed. Usually, it amounts to approx. 4,000 square metres.

Stability of wind power plants

In the summer of 2021, extremely strong winds caused millions in damage in the northern Weinviertel region. In the neighbouring region of South Moravia, the strong winds even turned into a destructive tornado. In view of these extreme forces of nature, the stability of wind power plants becomes an important issue.

For every power plant type, manufacturers guarantee the power plant’s stability for a certain maximum wind speed. This guaranteed stability is based on extreme gusts of wind expected to occur only every 50 years in Central Europe. Vestas V 90 is the power plant type that we use most often. This power plant type has a guaranteed stability up to a wind speed of 52.5 m/s, which corresponds to 190 km/h.

In recent years, we have seen again and again that wind power plants are able to resist even higher wind speeds. Some years ago, for example, wind speeds of more than 200 km/h were recorded at the Tauern wind farm in the Styrian region of Judenburg at 1,900 metres above sea level. The wind did not cause any material damage to the wind farm. The power plants were shut down for safety reasons, but could then resume operation after a short period of time.

It is difficult to predict exactly which extreme wind speeds would give rise to destructive forces that the man-made structures would no longer be able to withstand. Other conditions such as soil conditions or past weather events such as strong rains that would affect the soil’s strength are certainly also decisive factors for a power plant’s stability.

Do wind power plants increase the risk of a blackout?

What is a blackout?
A blackout is a large-scale power outage that affects a whole region. In some parts of Europe, there have already been smaller regional power outages time and again, lasting only for short periods of time. Those, however, are not technically blackouts.

A real blackout is not caused by a single incident. Blackouts are the result of a series of individual incidents like broken power lines, transformer station failures and unplanned outages of major power plants. If a region is undersupplied, this results in load fluctuations in the European transmission network, which, in turn, may result in the failure of important nodes and transformer stations, so that distribution networks can no longer be supplied. This causes sudden large-scale power outages which can no longer be compensated by common grid stabilisation measures. Power outages affect private households, commercial and industrial companies, transport, communication networks, water supply and disposal and energy supply.

What puts the most strain on the power grid?
International power trading does not take into account the physical limits of the power grid. The market determines electricity flows through the transmission networks. The EU electricity market regulation provides that, by 2025, 70 percent of transmission capacities must be available for cross-border electricity trade.

This constitutes a special challenge for Austria as an electricity transit country: wind power plants and pumped storage power plants have to be integrated into the grid to ensure the country’s security of supply. Currently, the business models available on the energy market for “storing energy” or “providing flexibility” are not efficient enough to reduce the strain on the networks.

As electricity production is volatile, there is a need for control in the grid. This requires improvements of distribution networks, transmission networks, storage capacities and flexibility. In recent years, grid stabilisation has become much more complex, incurring costs that have to be borne by the consumers.

How can a blackout be prevented?
Electricity production and electricity consumption have to be balanced. In Austria and Europe, this balance within the grid is ensured by coordinating electricity production and consumption. Power line frequency is the most important parameter in this connection. Even minute deviations from the alternating current frequency of 50 Hertz are compensated by emergency mechanisms like the connection and disconnection of power plant capacities. Controllable power plants which are distributed strategically throughout the grid are essential for these mechanisms. The costs of this service are also covered by grid charges. In Austria, mainly pumped storage power plants that are available on short notice are used for this purpose. In the future, storage capacities will have to be increased if renewable energies are to form the new basis of the electricity industry.

Who is responsible for guaranteeing grid stability in Austria?
In Austria, stable electricity supply is guaranteed by the Austrian Power Grid control centre, where entire power plants are connected to the grid or disconnected from it. If there is a lack of electricity, pumped storage power plants and gas-fired cogeneration plants will be quickly connected to the grid. In Vienna, these generation reserves are mainly provided by power plants in the districts of Simmering and Donaustadt. The most important control units in Austria are located in the Alps: pumped storage power plants have an enormous capacity range. Austria’s largest pumped storage power plants are located in Kaprun and in the Malta valley. It only takes a few minutes for the pumped storage power plant at Kaprun to feed 592 megawatts into the high-voltage grid or to withdraw 610 megawatts from the grid by pumping water into higher reservoirs.

Is a good integration of wind power plants into the grid possible?
Wind power plants and wind farms can be easily controlled within a network. It is easy to precisely predict wind speeds and thus the amount of wind power that is going to be generated several hours in advance. If power generation exceeds consumption by far, it just takes a few minutes to disconnect individual wind turbines or even entire wind farms from the grid. This flexibility supports the stability of our grids.

Is there a serious blackout risk in Austria?
The risk of a blackout in Austria is very small. Nevertheless, it would be important to increase the capacity reserves of our supply system if we want to revolutionise our electricity industry using renewable energy sources. This includes the increase of available grid capacities, available storage capacities and our options for reacting flexibly to events of crises.

Below, you can find a list of current construction projects that are intended to improve and guarantee security of supply in Austria:

Frequently Asked Questions

Impressive facts and figures on wind power
  • A modern 6 MW wind power plant...
    • generates approx. 16 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year,
    • which corresponds to the annual consumption of more than 4,000 households in Austria;
    • is an investment of more than 8 million euros per year;
    • saves more than 8,600 tons of carbon dioxide, protecting the environment with clean electricity production;
    • creates all-year full-time jobs for more than 20 people employed for the construction, maintenance and operation during a wind turbine’s entire service life.
When do wind turbines stand still?

In the East of Austria, there are almost constantly strong winds. We can generate wind power almost year-round: the rotors rotate on 95 percent of all days, producing emission-free electricity.

When a wind turbine stands still, it is usually for maintenance reasons, due to a fault or for the rare reason that there is actually no wind at all. When the wind is picking up or dying down, some wind turbines may stand still while others are rotating. When the wind is still weaker, the first rotations run without resistance, i.e. without generating electricity. The rotor blades will then move faster than those of power plants that are already producing electricity. Even wind turbines that are located next to each other may move at different speeds.

Is it possible for local residents to purchase cheap electricity generated in the wind farms?

Unfortunately not, due to the legal and economic framework conditions.

The European grid is very complex. Network operators have to make sure that, at every point in time, the amount of energy supplied to the grid corresponds exactly to the amount consumed. This is only possible by coordinating hundreds of power plants, distribution stations, pumped storage power plants, etc.

Wind electricity is thus fed into the transregional distribution network, allowing for a distribution of the generated energy according to the actual demand. This distribution network guarantees you the voltage and frequency required for operating your devices and systems at all times.

What happens with rotor blades that are taken out of service?

We try to make sure that we use our wind power plants as long as possible. After a useful life of 20 to 25 years, we make as many components as possible available for further use or recycling. Most components of wind power plants can be used for other purposes. The steel tower can be melted. Concrete foundations can be crushed and used for road construction.

The wind energy sector is also keen to find ways of re-using rotor blades. Provider Energie Burgenland has come up with an innovative solution: they want to use rotor blades as bridges for cyclists and hikers.

Other companies in the wind energy sector have rotor blades crushed to use them for the production of new plastic materials. Rotor blades may also be shredded and used to supply energy for industrial processes. Another more innovative process was developed in Austria and received the 2017 GreenTec Award, an international environmental award. In this process, rotor blades are mixed with waste materials from paper production and transformed into an energy resource for the production of clinker bricks. In a few years’ time, this process might be used on a large commercial scale.

Why are there so many wind turbines in the Weinviertel region?

Wind is blowing all over Austria. The professional use of wind power is only possible in some parts of Austria, however. The regions in northeastern Lower Austria and northern Burgenland are excellent wind zones which are particularly suited for electricity generation.

The Weinviertel region is perfect for efficiently operating wind power plants: the gentle hills cause only moderate wind turbulence, there are few frost days due to the mild climate and the winds are often strong. This makes our region one of the best wind areas in Austria.

Why are there red lights flashing on wind power plants when it is dark?

The red flashing lights on wind power plants are intended to guarantee the safety of air traffic.

There are currently several initiatives in the wind power sector which try to optimise these optical warning signals. One project is considering and testing the installation of transponder-based detection systems in wind farms which are intended to activate optical warning systems only when aircrafts are approaching. This system is currently under technical and legal review.

We are also participating in a series of technical trials and have installed a pilot system on one of our wind turbines. Based on initial results, there is hope that it will be possible to reduce flashing time to one to three percent. The Austrian Ministry for Climate Action is responsible for aviation safety and has to take the final decision on such a reduction. We are currently waiting for the Ministry’s decision.

We need all renewable energy sources if we want to successfully revolutionise our energy system.

What happens when ice builds up on the rotor blades?

Modern wind turbines are equipped with electronic sensors that detect ice and will then automatically shut down the power plant. Regulatory requirements provide for two independent ice sensors. Ice building up on the rotor blades is mainly what is referred to as “rime ice”. Only freezing rain may cause the build-up of a more compact ice formation, which may then result in ice falling off the shut-down power plant. Thanks to strict legal provisions, ice throw has not been an issue for years now. Information signs also inform of the potential danger of ice shedding in risk areas close to the power plants.