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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » June 25, 2008
EXPO 2008
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Water Power
June 25, 2008   
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The global trend to increase the use of energy generated from renewable sources is particularly visible in the European Union. In Poland, hydroelectric power plants play the most significant role in the production of renewable energy.

Alternative energy sources are especially important because conventional sources of energy are shrinking and traditional power generation technology has a negative impact on the natural environment. Renewable sources of energy make it possible to improve the state of the environment, reduce the amount of waste, and help save other natural resources.

The main advantage of hydroelectric power plants is that they provide clean energy, with negligible emissions of greenhouse gases and pollution.

The total power-generating capacity of Poland's rivers is estimated at 12 TWh a year, but only 15 percent of this capacity is used today. Roughly 70 percent of the total capacity is available in the Vistula River basin, and the Oder river and coastal rivers account for the remaining 30 percent. Most of the country's hydroelectric power plants are located in northern Poland in the Western Pomerania, Pomerania, and Warmia-Mazuria provinces. Quite a few plants can also be found in Kujawy-Pomerania province in north-central Poland. There are around 130 large hydroelectric power plants in the country, along with 350 or so smaller plants and other renewable-energy generation facilities.

Most hydroelectric power plants in Poland are operated by state-controlled power generation and distribution companies, and some are privately owned.

Hydroelectric power plants account for just 7 percent of the country's total installed power capacity of 34,000 MW. The country's largest hydroelectric power plants include Solina, Żarnowiec and Czorsztyn-Niedzica.

The Żarnowiec plant, located on Lake Żarnowieckie in Pomerania province, was launched in 1983. Initially, it was expected to work jointly with a nuclear power plant, but the nuclear power plant was never built. The maximum capacity of the Żarnowiec hydroelectric power plant is 800 MW. The manmade lake next to it can hold nearly 14 million cubic meters of water and has an area of 135 hectares, or roughly the size of 130 soccer pitches.

The Solina power plant was built together with a dam in 1961-1968. The dam is 82 meters tall at the topmost point and 622 meters wide.

The Czorsztyn-Niedzica dam dates back to 1905. It is 404 meters long and 60 meters tall. The Czorsztyn hydroelectric power plant is a pumped-storage plant that takes only 3-4 minutes to begin working full tilt. In addition to power, the plant plays a flood control role and provides water recreation opportunities.

The Elektrownie Szczytowo-Pompowe (ESP) SA company operates 23 hydroelectric power plants in Poland, which account for 75 percent of the total capacity installed in the country's hydroelectric power plant system.

The company says it pays a lot of attention to environmental protection, by eliminating leaks of oil-derived substances from its facilities and enabling fish to swim upriver.

ZZW Czorsztyn-Nidzica-Sromowce Wyżne SA is another major hydroelectric power plant operator in Poland.

Other plants include ESP Żydowo, owned by Zakład Energetyczny Słupsk SA; EW Włocławek, owned by Zakład Energetyczny Toruń SA; and EW Rożnów, owned by Zakład Energetyczny Kraków SA.

Many of the small hydroelectric power plants and other renewable energy sources are privately owned. Poland still has thousands of sites where small hydroelectric power plants could be built and dozen of locations that could host medium-sized plants.
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