Baltic wind 'cheaper than nuclear'

POLAND: Installing 5.7GW of offshore wind power in the Polish part of the Baltic Sea is a cheaper option than the 3GW of nuclear generation planned by the government by 2020, according to a report published by the Polish Renewable Energy Institute (REI) last month.

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"The 3GW of nuclear power at Zarnowiec scheduled for 2020 could be replaced by the 5.7GW cluster of wind farms located in the Lawica Slupska area of the Baltic," said Grzegorz Wisiewski, the president of REI. "Wind is the cheaper option. The cost of electricity from offshore Baltic wind farms will reach EUR104/MWh while the cost of nuclear electricity will stand at EUR110/MWh."

The REI report was prepared with the latest data from consultants Mott Macdonald, using an adjusted Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic model to compare nuclear power plants with fossil-fuel plants. REI assumed that the investment costs of new nuclear power stations would rise 80% by 2020. The analysis takes into account the cost of repowering the offshore wind cluster after 25 years of operation.

Nuclear preference

The 3GW Zarnowiec nuclear power plant is the first of two units planned by the Polish government. The second, with identical capacity, is planned for 2030 in an as-yet-undecided location.

REI's conclusion that the 6GW of new nuclear generation in Poland is replaceable by 11.3GW of offshore wind is in line with findings from the country's Maritime Institute presented in April. The institute assessed Poland's offshore wind potential as being between 7.1GW and 17.9GW producing 34.7TWh and 83.3TWh respectively.

The Polish government sees much less room for offshore wind. The country's National Renewable Energy Action Plan predicts that only 500MW of offshore wind farms will be installed by 2020 while total wind-energy capacity will reach 6.65GW. This plan was strongly criticised by renewable-energy organisations and environmental groups.

The REI report was sponsored by the Heinrich Boll research foundation and Poland's Greenpeace branch. Both organisations are lobbying for Poland to abandon nuclear power in favour of wind energy. This is a view increasingly mirrored by the public. In 2009, 50% of Poles supported nuclear with 40% opposed, but a March poll showed the position had been reversed.

Possibly reflecting this change, deputy prime minister, Waldemar Pawlak, who is responsible for the power sector, professed his support in June for offshore wind-farm development as an alternative to nuclear power. He said: "Wind is an important source of energy with great prospects in the context of the problems associated with nuclear energy."

The prime minister, Donald Tusk, remains a strong supporter of nuclear power, but it is thought this does not exclude the possibility of a referendum in Poland on the issue.

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