Today saw the official opening of the combined cycle gas turbine power plant (CCGT) in Mellach/Styria, Austria’s most modern thermal power plant. The new facility replaces a total of five old thermal power plants that were fired with lignite or oil. As a result, the new CCGT saves up to two million tons of CO2 annually. Given that operation is highly flexible and not dependent on the weather, the Mellach CCGT will become the backbone of the secure power supply in Austria.
The long-established VERBUND location in Mellach/Styria was Austria’s largest power plant construction site for three whole years. Up to 1,200 tradesmen were busy on site at any one time, putting in a total of over three million hours of work in Mellach. The result of their effort is the Mellach CCGT, Austria’s most modern thermal power plant. It replaces no fewer than five old lignite or oil-fired power plants shut down by VERBUND. When online, the new CCGT will save up to two million tons of CO2 a year. Combined electricity and heat generation means that the plant can produce clean, particulate-free district heating of an unprecedented environmental standard for the Graz area.
Reliable partner for renewables from wind and solar
With a capacity of 838 megawatts (MW), the Mellach CCGT is the most powerful power plant in Austria. Some 1.4 million homes can therefore count on a reliable power supply from Mellach, even when the fluctuating electricity generated by wind and solar plants is not available because of the weather.
At the heart of the two generators are highly efficient gas turbines manufactured by Siemens in Berlin. With the downstream steam turbines, the power plant achieves electric efficiency of 59.2% and if steam is recovered for district heating its efficiency can be increased to virtually 80%, thus making the best possible use of natural gas as the fuel.
Difficult situation for gas power plants poses a threat to the energy transition
The general conditions for gas-fired power plants continue to remain challenging. Firstly, huge subsidies are available for expanding wind and solar power although it fluctuates considerably. And secondly, the profitability of gas power plants supplementing supply throughout Europe is limited. What is responsible for this are the still relatively low wholesale prices for electricity on the one hand and long-term, oil index-linked and therefore expensive gas supply contracts on the other. Due to these circumstances VERBUND’s half year results will from today’s perspective be adversely affected by the Mellach CCGT.
In the medium term, however we can expect demand for capacity to rise on the European electricity market, ensuring that gas-fired power plants can be operated economically.