Baseload, Geothermal, Project Development, Utility Scale, Wind Power

New Polish Government Under Fire for Crackdown on Wind Energy Expansion

The new Polish Government’s intention to curb wind energy expansion in the country has met a severe backlash from local wind market players and international wind energy executives alike.

Barely sworn into the office, Jan Szyszko, Poland’s new minister of Environment, said that the Law and Justice Party, which he represents, is against the expansion of wind power facilities in the country.

He was quoted by Polish media in late February as saying: “Geothermal energy, not wind energy, will definitely be the priority of this government…In the first we see a possibility to meet the air quality norms in urbanized parts of the country. The situation is completely different with wind farms. Wind farms destroy the landscape arrangement and are alien to the Polish cultural heritage and harmful to natural reserves.”

The European Union requires Poland to produce 15 percent of its electric power from renewables by 2020, up from around 12 percent currently. Heavily reliant on coal to produce its energy, previous Polish governments have developed biomass energy sources and subsidized the construction of wind farms.

In the bill on Wind Investments, drawn up by the Conservative Polish Government in late February, a set of new demands for wind power developers is laid out.

Polish wind harnessers fear that the demands, if implemented, will significantly impede or phase out the country’s existing wind farms and will make it impossible to launch new ones.

Among the hotly contested provisions is the ban for construction of wind turbines within 2 kilometers from the nearest house or forest to prevent ice falls from rotor blades; if the bill goes into force, wind farm operators will need to obtain an operation permit every two years from the Technical Supervision Office (TSO); operators will be charged with a fee of up to 1 percent of the wind turbine investment cost until a local regulation to be drafted will decide otherwise; operators will need to obtain an approval for any repair or modernization of technical fixtures of a wind turbine.

Additional requirements for existing wind farms include the demand for investors, who already run wind facilities in the country, to obtain an operation permit for the wind turbines within one year. Besides, operators of existing wind farms will not be able to change the envelope of turbines, but only be allowed to do maintenance and repairs in the already installed machines.

“If the draft is passed, it will phase out existing wind farms as it would exclude over 99 percent of the Polish territory from wind energy development,” Janusz Gajowiecki, deputy director of Poland’s Wind Energy Association told Renewable Energy World. “New development would therefore be prohibited while increases in operational costs would severely impact existing wind farms.”

By requiring permitting procedures every two years, the draft, he says, creates unnecessarily expensive and “cumbersome obligations” for manufacturers vis-à-vis the TSO.

“The cost of obtaining permits from the TSO, capped at 1 percent value of a wind turbine, and threefold increase in real estate taxation would massively drive up operational costs,” the deputy director said.

During Wind Power Poland 2016 — a major gathering of wind power executives from all over the European Union, held in Warsaw during March 8-9 — Giles Dickson, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, praised Poland as “an emerging leader” for wind power in Europe and cautioned that the Polish Government-endorsed new wind bill “will tie new projects up in red tape” and “make life hard” for existing wind turbines that do not meet the legal demands.

“Poland’s wind market was one of the strongest performers last year — second only to Germany — installing a total of 1.3 GW in new capacity as developers pushed forward on projects,” Dickson told Renewable Energy World through his spokesman Oliver Joy. “To date, the wind industry in Poland supports over 8,000 jobs and generates 600 million zloty [($154 million)] in revenue each year… We cannot ignore the growing uncertainty the market is facing on the regulatory front.”

The CEO’s statement on the situation in Poland is available on the EWEA website.

Replying to Renewable Energy World query, Joanna Józefiak, the Counselor to minister Jan Szyszko, noted Poland’s favorable geothermal conditions.

“Around 80 percent of the country is covered by three geothermal provinces: Central European, Fore-Carpathian and Carpathian,” she said, but did not elaborate on the controversial bill.

According to the World Energy Council (WEC), Poland possesses substantial resources of geothermal energy, but they lack high temperatures. The available resource varies from reservoir temperatures of 30 degrees Celcius to 130 degrees Celsius at depths of one to four kilometers, according to WEC.

Lead image: Wind turbine in a field in Poland. Credit: Shutterstock.