ÖBB commissions “world’s first” wind turbine for traction power

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Austrian rail operator ÖBB has commissioned what it claims to be the “world’s first traction current wind turbine” in Höflein, Lower Austria, as it continues to increase its self-sufficiency using renewable energy.

Austrian climate protection minister Leonore Gewessler (left) and ÖBB CEO Andreas Matthä (right). © ÖBB / Roland Rudolph
Austrian climate protection minister Leonore Gewessler (left) and ÖBB CEO Andreas Matthä (right). © ÖBB / Roland Rudolph

The wind turbine, which cost around €6m to install, has an output of around 3 MW and supplies energy per year for around 1,400 train journeys on a route from Vienna to Salzburg.

The in-house production of sustainable electricity is at the heart of ÖBB’s ambitious climate protection strategy. For more than 100 years, the company has been a pioneer in electromobility. At that time, the ÖBB phased out coal and built the first hydroelectric power plants for traction power.

Today, ÖBB, together with its partner power plants, generates around 60% of the electricity required itself. Its goal is clear: in the coming years, ÖBB wants to increase its own generation share to 80%. This means becoming as energy self-sufficient as possible and independent of energy imports from abroad.

The 16.7 Hz traction current wind turbine in Höflein will make a significant contribution in the future. The energy generated is fed directly into the overhead line of the railway. On the one hand, this direct feed-in largely avoids the need for new electrical lines, and on the other hand, the trains are supplied directly with 100% green wind energy with low losses.

Austrian climate protection minister Leonore Gewessler said: “The fight against the climate crisis is our historic task. There is great potential for CO2 savings, especially in the mobility sector. ÖBB is not only the backbone of public transport in Austria, but also a reliable partner for more climate protection.

“With the construction of the world’s first traction current wind turbine, ÖBB is making an important contribution to climate neutrality in 2040 and energy autonomy in Austria. The great thing about it: with the self-generated clean electricity, an important step is taken to increase the proportion of self-generated electricity,” Gewessler added.

ÖBB CEO Andreas Matthä added: “I am incredibly proud that today we commissioned the world’s first wind turbine for traction power. This is a major innovative milestone for the green future of mobility and the next step in our energy strategy toward greater self-sufficiency and independence.

“As one of the largest climate protection companies in Austria, we will continue to invest in alternative forms of energy in the future. Around €1bn by 2030. The breath of fresh air in terms of mobility can be felt everywhere. That’s why we’re building wind turbines to drive them into a climate-neutral future,” Matthä added.

ÖBB is a pioneer in generating electricity from renewable energy for the rail system. In 2015, for example, ÖBB commissioned the world’s first 16.7 Hz traction current solar power plant in Wilfleinsdorf in Lower Austria. In addition, the world’s first photovoltaic system for green traction power was piloted on a noise barrier in Tullnerfeld. With the world’s first traction current wind turbine, the environmentally friendly energy generation at ÖBB is now being continued and in-house production is increased.

By feeding the generated electricity directly into the railway’s own grid, existing renewable energy resources are used directly where consumption is generated. This relieves the 50 Hz grid and avoids losses during forming and transport. The current will be integrated into the overhead line via a newly developed switching station in a transportable container design. ÖBB is thus combining two innovative developments in one project.

The news follows an announcement made earlier this year that OBB is to invest approximately €1 billion in renewable energy between 2022 and 2030, more specifically on hydropower, wind power and photovoltaics, as it works toward ending its “reliance on fossil fuels for good.”