As Spanish company Acciona Energia plans a return to offshore wind with partner SSE Renewables, the companies are focusing on developing the supply chain needed for offshore wind construction in Poland – a market yet to install its first offshore wind turbine.
Andrzej Konarowski, Acciona Energia’s country director for Poland, told Windpower Monthly that a major priority for the partners is to build workers’ skills for offshore wind installation and maintenance.
He said the two companies are in discussions with universities and colleges about adapting programs to support the education and training of an offshore wind supply chain in the country.
“We want the supply chain to develop with us,” he added. “This is a challenge from our perspective, but we are building something, and we'd like to be a big part of [Poland’s] energy transition from coal to renewables.”
Poland has already selected 5.9GW of offshore wind capacity to receive a fixed tariff, and is currently carrying out a seabed lease allocation round ahead of competitive tenders planned for the middle of the decade.
Konarowski believes early work on a strong supply chain will make the development partners’ eventual auction bid more attractive and also aid them in future projects in Poland, and possibly elsewhere in the Baltic Sea.
Acciona and SSE recently announced the site – Zone 60.E.4, located 85km from the city of Władysławowo in north-central Poland, with water depths of up to 58 metres – that they are hoping to secure in Poland’s ongoing leasing round. They face competition in the zone, including from Simply Blue Group, which has also applied for the site.
Simon Redfern, SSE Renewables’ bid director, described Zone 60.E.4 as having “excellent wind resources”, but conceded that the site is not without its challenges – namely its deep waters and distance from the shore.
The developers plan to use gravity-based foundations that would use ballast to secure the structure on the seabed to overcome the challenges of project development in deep waters, Acciona’s Konarowski said. They also intend to use high-voltage direct-current cables (HVDC) cables to enable long-distance transmission of electricity.
Because of its footprint in the country – having previously developed onshore wind and solar PV – Acciona is armed with knowledge of administrative and regulatory processes for developing energy projects, and also of companies that could move into offshore wind, he added.
Acciona’s sister company Mostostal Warszawa has been involved in Polish infrastructure projects in the past, including chemical and energy plants, and radio masts. It has also developed a gravity-based foundation that would be suitable for the Polish Baltic Sea and can be built quickly and safely, Konarwoski claimed.
The long game
The partners hope to secure a lease in Poland’s ongoing allocation round, to then compete for a contract for difference (CfD) in tenders scheduled for 2025 and 2027.
Konarowski is not concerned about the long time between seabed leasing and auctions in the middle of the decade and said it would be a “challenge” to do everything needed ahead of the CfD auctions.
He explained that the developers will need to carry out feasibility studies and technical analyses for the project, including environmental impact assessments and exactly how the wind farm will transmit power back to shore.
The current thinking includes the use of HVDC cables – believed to be the most efficient way of carrying large volumes of electricity over long distances – and offshore substations on platforms to enable transmission of electricity over long distances.
Konarowski told Windpower Monthly that Acciona and SSE aim to eventually develop more than 1GW of offshore wind capacity in Poland – but he would not be drawn on a firm target, or what the capacity of their project in their chosen zone might be.
Acciona and SSE announced a partnership for offshore wind off the coasts of Spain and Portugal in early 2021, marking a return to the sector for the Spanish developer.
SSE may be a seasoned hand in offshore wind, but its Spanish partner is yet to see an offshore wind farm through to completion.
However, Konarowski believes that Acciona Energia’s competences in development, construction and operation of other energy sources can be transferred to offshore wind.
When Acciona was first involved in floating offshore wind pilot projects off Spain in the early 2010s, he said, the offshore wind sector “held less interest for developers and project sponsors, especially those with onshore wind businesses”, he said. But it has since matured, with improved technology and well-developed regulatory frameworks, he explained.
“Right now we are back in this. We know how to develop the technology, how to implement, how to operate, and we are still looking for some innovative projects [in offshore wind].”
Konarowski expects the war in Ukraine and, consequently, the EU’s increased desire for energy independence from Russia to generate momentum for different countries’ plans for offshore wind.
As for developing offshore wind in other countries, Konarowsi says Acciona is “interested in opportunities that may arise” but insists that the company’s focus for now is firmly on Poland’s Baltic Sea.