How to produce more wind energy in Poland?28.02.2022Media
Wind energy has great potential in Poland, but its development is limited by legal regulations, experts point out. What should be done to increase the share of wind in the national energy mix?
Author: Paulina Borowska / EURACTIV.pl
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Renewable energy sources’ share of the energy mix in Poland is about 15 percent. However, their share is growing, and in 2030 it may reach over 43 percent, which, according to an Energy Forum think-tank, will allow to maintain stability of the national energy system.
Wind is the largest source of RES energy in the country, and according to the swiatoze.pl website, at peak times wind energy accounts for about 30 percent of the energy mix.
According to the Energy Market Information Center, wind energy reached 11.6 percent of Poland’s total energy production in 2021.
January 2022 was a record for wind power generation, with more than 2.5 TWh generated, the most ever. Due to strong winds over the past few days, wind turbines reached record capacity.
„Recent weeks have shown that wind energy has a huge potential in Poland. Every now and then this winter new energy production records are set and there are already days, when windmills are responsible for more than one third of the domestic demand. This is a really good result for a country where the government has been fighting against windmills for years,” stresses Joanna Flisowska, coordinator of Greenpeace Poland’s Climate and Energy team, in an interview with EURACTIV.pl.
Lack of ambition
According to the targets set out in Poland’s Energy Policy until 2040 (PEP 2040), Warsaw intends to achieve „at least a 23 percent share of RES in gross final energy consumption in 2030”, of which the largest share is to be attributed to wind energy.
Joanna Flisowska emphasises that „the energy strategy, which was adopted at the beginning of 2021, was based on outdated data already at the time of its publication”.
According to the expert, „the PEP2040 strategy in no way responds to the challenges of the climate crisis and is not consistent with the Fit For 55 package. It also underestimates the potential for development of RES in Poland neither regarding the solar energy nor in the context of wind energy”.
In turn, Bernard Swoczyna, an expert in the Energy & Climate programme at the Instrat Foundation, adds that Poland lacks an ambitious and well-thought-out wind energy strategy, „and we may soon strongly feel the effects of this.
According to experts, the so-called distance (windmill) law introduced in 2016 has hampered the development of wind energy. According to the 10H rule, the distance between residential buildings and a windmill must now be at least ten times the total height of the windmill, which was argued by the noise caused by windmills and inconvenience for local residents.
„In recent years, the wind energy industry in Poland has developed far below its capabilities and needs. For several years, investments have basically come to a standstill, with only 637 MW commissioned in 2020. Just a few years earlier, even more than 1,000 MW were built in Poland annually. This is obviously related to the so-called anti-wind law of 2016, which significantly restricted the possibility of locating wind investments in our country,” Joanna Flisowska points out.
Bernard Swoczyna, on the other hand, emphasizes that the location regulations, i.e. the 10H rule, exclude the possibility of building wind farms in almost 99.72 percent of Poland. „Where it is still possible to build them (0.28 percent of the country’s area) the 10H rule allows to place only small, outdated turbines that operate for a smaller number of hours a year,” he points out.
That’s why experts are underline that the 10H rule needs to be changed for wind energy to thrive.
„The 10H rule should be immediately abolished and wind turbines should be allowed to be placed at a shorter distance from buildings corresponding to their actual impact, such as 500 meters. Lifting the restrictions will allow the installation of modern turbines that have larger propellers for the same generator power. It is important because the wind in Poland is not always strong”, emphasises Bernard Swoczyna.
The Instrat Foundation expert explains that „a windmill with a larger propeller produces a lot of electricity even with weaker gusts. This will allow Poland to produce electricity mainly from wind for a significant part of the time.”
„Governments should focus on regulations and instruments that will accelerate investment in both onshore and offshore wind energy,” Joanna Flisowska emphasises in turn. „It is also important to ensure the proper development of electricity grids at the same time,” she told EURACTIV.pl.
Bernard Swoczyna adds that „it is important to increase investment in power grids and to prioritise the connection of RES”. Distribution grid operators, according to him, do not provide wind and solar farms with switching options.
Last year, the government proposed a draft of the law, which changes the 10H rule and reduces the required distance between a windmill and buildings to 500 metres. This would be complemented by mandatory public consultation and an increase in the authority of the municipality to locate a new wind turbine.
In December, the draft received a positive opinion from the Joint Commission of the Government and Local Government, but it is not to be forwarded to the Sejm until the second quarter of this year.
Offshore wind farms – a key to success?
Opportunities for wind energy development are seen in wind farms in the Baltic Sea. The government wants the offshore wind farms to be serviced in the port of Gdynia.
Offshore wind energy, together with nuclear power – according to PEP 2040 – is to play a „special role” in transforming the national energy system to a zero-carbon one. „These will be two strategic new areas and industries to be built in Poland,” it states.
Offshore wind farms „due to economic and technical conditions have the greatest development prospects”. Offshore wind energy is expected to reach about 5.9 GW in 2030 and up to about 11 GW in 2040.
However, according to Joanna Flisowska, those in power are very slow in conducting legislative work on regulations for offshore wind farms. „Despite the huge interest of Polish and foreign corporations in these investments, there are concerns whether the current deadlines for offshore investments are tenable,” she points out.
According to the Greenpeace expert, „The Baltic Sea has a huge potential for energy production for the Polish economy. It is estimated that at least 30 GW of wind power plants can be installed there – that is more than four times more than the number of onshore wind turbines we have today in Poland”.
Besides, „winds are much more stable at sea than on land, so offshore wind farms will have a higher capacity factor, which means they will produce more electricity,” he adds.
Wind – saving the system at a lower price?
Analysts estimate that increasing the share of wind farms in energy production may result in a significant increase in GDP, revenues for local governments and new jobs.
Renewable energy, including wind energy, is also cheaper than traditional sources of energy. According to the Polish Wind Energy Association (PSEW), the price of energy from RES, including wind power plants, is more than three times less than energy production in coal or gas power plants.
„Onshore windmills are the cheapest available technology for electricity production, and Poland is struggling with high electricity prices,” Joanna Flisowska points out.
However, Poland – as Bernard Swoczyna points out – is building power plants for natural gas. „But as we can see, this fuel is unreliable, because in moments of scarcity it can be horrendously expensive,” he notes.
„If we don’t secure more power from wind – and also as a supplement to electricity storage – we will be paying even more for energy than today,” he told EURACTIV.pl.
Joanna Flisowska points out that „we are threatened by a carbon gap related to the need to switch off old coal-fired power plants after 2025”. „Onshore wind farms could partially fill this gap. However, without abolishing the 10H rule this will not happen,” the expert concludes.
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