Geothermal energy to ‘energize’ Vienna venue


Renovation starts at Ernst-Happel-Stadion Image: Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Peter Gugerell, Public Domain

The redecoration work of the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria, began recently. With the use of geothermal power and photovoltaic (PV) cell, the arena will become self-sufficient in energy production.

‘TGA’ stated that in November 2023, the Vienna City Council decided to convert the Ernst Happel Stadium into a net zero facility. To this end, 12,000 solar panels will be installed on the roof and the venue will become self-sufficient in the production of energy with the use of geothermal power with 270 boreholes being drilled to use geothermal water for electricity production and a geothermal collector system will provide heating energy from the ground for the building.

The Ernst Happel Stadium, known as Praterstadion until 1992, sometimes also called the Wiener-Stadion, is a football stadium in Leopoldstadt, the second district of Austria’s capital Vienna. With 50,865 seats, it is the largest stadium in Austria.

‘TGA’ further stated that the City of Vienna has sanctioned 100 million euros for the stadium revamp work.

Geothermal power is electrical power generated from geothermal energy. The drilling of boreholes has begun and the relevant drilling work is underway in the training grounds in front of the stadium.

A solar cell or photovoltaic (PV) cell is an electronic device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by means of the photovoltaic effect. It is a form of photoelectric cell, a device whose electrical characteristics vary when it is exposed to light.

Put in Peter Hacker, Executive City Councilor for Social Affairs, Public Health and Sports, Vienna, “Geothermal energy coupled with PV cells will help us in producing surplus electricity.”

It is expected that the annual production of energy will stand at 4,377 MWh, which is around 800 MWh more than the energy currently required in the stadium. The surplus energy will then be used in the swimming pool adjacent to the venue.

Before the drilling rigs are deployed, the floodlights and the artificial turf and lawn areas will have to be removed, among other things. The renovation of the eleven training fields – including six competition-sized fields – is scheduled to be completed by Autumn 2024 and the entire renovation work by 2026.

Roof Row

A new retractable roof will be put in place to enable the facility to hold events throughout the year and thus keep the coffers jingling. The City of Vienna floated the tenders for the retractable roof project, estimated at around 50 million euros, in 2023 end as a ‘functional total contractor tender’. The submission deadline, which ran from December 8th to January 9th, drew sharp criticism from the Executive Board of the Chamber of Civil Engineers of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland over “wasting taxpayers’ money”.

The above bodies stated that “one of the most important architectural and engineering tasks was a cloak-and-dagger activity”. Though the tender had a clause that bidders will have to inspect the stadium in advance for the 14,200 m2 new roof but the telephone number given for contact purpose was not reachable and with the Christmas holidays falling in between things became more difficult for the bidders.

The above bodies are crying foul and have termed the entire exercise as one “shrouded in secrecy and not transparent at all”. The Civil Engineers’ body also said that one contractor was selected 11 days after the deadline and smelt a rat in the entire process.

The Chamber of Architects has also objected to the roof tender exercise and has submitted an application for review to the administrative court seeking a date extension for the submission of tenders. Until a judgment is delivered, the tender submission deadline is being extended on a weekly basis with the latest deadline being February 19th.

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