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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 19, 2008
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Pomerania Sets Sights on Renewable Energy
November 19, 2008   
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The northern Polish region of Pomerania is determined to focus on the production of renewable energy in the coming years. For now, 70 percent of the energy consumed in the region comes from outside sources.

Many local experts say Pomerania should focus on building biogas plants and using biomass to increase the proportion of its own energy. Local governments, nongovernmental organizations and energy producers and distributors are pinning hopes on the efforts of Pomeranian researchers, who are working to develop renewable energy technologies.

Andrzej Tonderski, D.Sc., Eng., director of the Pomeranian Center for Environmental Research and Technology (POMCERT), says the region is capable of increasing the use of renewable energy sources.

"The Pomerania-based fuel giant Lotos produces energy from fossil fuels, but is increasingly eyeing biofuels as well," Tonderski says. "Local distributor Energa is interested in developing dispersed energy sources-by building the necessary infrastructure, expanding the network, and launching biogas plants throughout the region."

The Gdańsk University of Technology (PG) and other university-level schools in the region have the capacity to develop and apply new renewable energy technologies.

Stumbling blocks
Renewable energy comes in the form of heat, electricity or biofuel. "The market is developing in these three directions, but the price differences among these three types of renewables are considerable," says Piotr Kowalik, a professor at the Gdańsk University of Technology. "Heat is the cheapest; electricity is several times more expensive; and transport energy is the most expensive."

The problem is that Polish law frequently changes and investments in wind turbines, biodiesel and bioethanol plants are often blocked by means of administrative decisions, Kowalik says. "Renewable heat is a different thing because its generation can be developed locally," he adds. Renewable heat generating plants sell heat to local council offices and schools. There are many producers of biomass and boilers that are used in single-family homes, local council offices and various other buildings.

"At present, some of the most promising technologies are oriented toward the production of biogas," Kowalik says. "You harvest green forage in the fields and feed it into a silo to produce biogas, specifically methane, in the process of fermentation. The biogas is then channeled to a combustion engine, which powers a generator, and the generator produces good-quality electricity. If you have invested in a wind turbine but there is no wind it is good to have a biogas plant as an alternative. Germany has prioritized this technology and some 4,000 small biogas plants have already been built there." In Poland, there is no more than a handful of such plants, according to Kowalik.

Another Gdańsk University of Technology professor, Waldemar Kamrat, says that the greatest problem for Pomerania is that the region has to buy electricity from outside producers and that its power grid is of inadequate quality. Over the next few years the region should build a 1,000 MW power plant or infrastructure to transport energy from other regions. In 2020, Pomerania will need 7,000 kWh of electricity per head of population, Kamrat says.

Among the obstacles faced by the region as it aspires to develop renewable energy production, Kamrat lists administrative barriers, such as problems with construction permits, and a shortage of equipment. Generator and turbine producers have their order books full for two or three years ahead, Kamrat says, and small biogas plants will not solve the problem-even if the region had 1,000 such plants connected to the power grid "I agree that renewable sources may play a very positive role in our region, but only as additional sources of energy," Kamrat says.

Tadeusz Żurek, D.Sc., Eng., an energy expert working for the chairman of Pomerania province, says that small-scale biogas production systems may improve the region's energy security, but will not solve all the problems. Only a system based on industrial-scale power plants can guarantee access to high-quality electricity.

Ewa Podlesińska from a nongovernmental organization called the Polish Ecological Club says that energy generated from non-renewable sources has major drawbacks in a world struggling with an economic crisis. The same goes for nuclear power generation. Besides, Poland does not have a program for managing radioactive waste and could have problems preventing nuclear accidents.

Piotr Bartosz

The Baltic Energy Conservation Agency (BAPE), set up in January 1996, aims to help rationalize the processing, transmission and use of energy and to promote renewable energy sources in the Pomerania region.

The agency works with local authorities and heat producers and consumers in the region. It takes part in many European energy conservation programs. As part of the Altener program, for example, the agency opened a Regional Office for Information on Renewable Energy Sources and created a national database of producers and distributors of wood pellets.

The agency has taken part in programs carried out by the Organization for the Promotion of Energy Technologies (OPET), a European network of energy conservation agencies operating under the auspices of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and Transport.

BAPE is an accredited service provider under the EU's "Enhancing Business Competitiveness" Sectoral Operational Program coordinated by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development in the area of innovation and new technology.

BAPE works with the Polish National Energy Conservation Agency and other regional energy conservation agencies. The agency relies on a staff of specialists in heat engineering and thermal improvements to buildings. They deal with renewable sources of energy and heating systems and work with foreign partners in the area of modern energy technologies and sustainable development.
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