Polish developers head out to sea

POLAND: With prospects for developing onshore wind projects in Poland looking slim following the introduction of onerous distance requirements earlier this year, some companies are looking off the Polish coast for growth.

Precedents… Germany and Denmark are already operating offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea (pic: Siemens)
Precedents… Germany and Denmark are already operating offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea (pic: Siemens)

Private energy group Polenergia announced in August that it had received the environmental permit for its 600MW Baltic Srodkowy III project from the Gdansk regional environmental agency.

It is the first offshore project in Poland to be granted environmental authorisation and is set to comprise 120 turbines of up to 5MW each at a site 23 kilometres off Poland in the Baltic Sea.

Polenergia is now beginning work on the project's technical design and hopes to start building in 2019 and to commission by 2022.

The firm has suspended development of onshore wind because of the new setback requirement, which stipulates that turbines must be sited at a distance of at least ten times the turbine's height from houses and protected sites, equivalent to up to two kilometres.

However, it expects to receive an environmental decision on a 600MW second phase of its Baltic Sea project later this year.

"The government has indicated it sees offshore wind as more suitable for the Polish energy system because it is considered to be a more stable, less intermittent source," said Wojciech Cetnarski, president of the Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA). "It is also less controversial from a social-acceptance point of view."

PWEA estimates 6GW of offshore wind could be operating in Poland by 2030 and 9GW by 2035. It sees these levels as generally feasible given the transmission network, although some reinforcement of the onshore grid will be needed to transmit power from north to south.

Cetnarski said the aim is to develop a regional approach to offshore wind energy in the Baltic, similar to that in the North Sea.

According to Cetnarski, there are no particular technological challenges to constructing wind farms in the Polish Baltic Sea. "The sea is rather shallow and sandy. The wind conditions are quite good - not as strong and violent as in the North Sea, but more stable. The water is less salty, so it is less corrosive," he said.

Like other renewable energy sources in Poland, offshore projects must compete through an auction process. In draft by-laws now out for public consultation and subject to change, the energy ministry has set a reference price of PLN 470/MWh (about €110/MWh) compared with PLN 385/MWh onshore.

Expectations are that the first auction for offshore wind capacity — in which a fixed tariff will be assigned through the contract for difference mechanism for 15 years — could be called in 2018 or 2019.

State-controlled utility Polska Grupa Energetyczna ranks among the most advanced in developing offshore wind projects, and Polish oil company Orlen is also seen potentially playing a role in the sector.

Big offshore players spearheading projects elsewhere in the Baltic or in the North Sea are also likely to turn their eyes to Poland should the country show it is serious about growing an offshore wind sector.

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