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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 19, 2008
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Energy from Wind
November 19, 2008   
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Compared with other countries in Europe, Poland still generates little electricity from wind. But that is changing.

Under European Union directives, by 2010 Poland should generate 10.4 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including water power, solar power, biomass, biogas, geothermal sources, and wind power. Wind power offers the greatest potential for renewable energy development in Poland.

Germany is the global leader in wind electricity production. It generates around 40 percent of the world's total electricity derived from wind power. The Netherlands, Portugal, France, Denmark, Greece, Sweden and Ireland also rank high in this respect. Wind farms are gaining popularity throughout Europe and are becoming an increasingly important source of electricity. In Poland, this sector has only started to develop, but experts say generation of electricity from wind power will soon become an important part of the economy.

According to Poland's Energy Regulatory Office (URE), last year the country's wind power plants generated over 356.7 GWh of electricity between them, up from 142 GWh in 2004, 135 GWh in 2005, and around 240 GWh in 2006. In 2007, Polish wind power plants had a combined capacity of 288 MW.

In 2005 wind power accounted for 1.2 percent of the total amount of electricity produced in Poland, up from just 0.01 percent in 2000, according to data by Xinxin Polska, a company dealing with the construction of wind power plants. Experts predict that the proportion of wind power will increase to 2.5 percent in 2010, 5.7 percent in 2020, and 8.3 percent in 2030. In 2006-2010, the total generating capacity of Poland's wind power plants should increase by more than 1,800 MW, Xinxin Polska says.

Wind power plants in a nutshell

A wind power plant is a complex of facilities generating electricity with the use of special wind turbines. Electricity produced in this way is considered to be environmentally clean because the process involves no fuel combustion or pollutants being released into the atmosphere.

The efficiency of wind power plants depends to a large extent on their location. Terrain features-such as hills, lowlands, and flat areas of land-and proximity to various objects and structures, such as trees or buildings, play an important role. The most suitable conditions for the operation of wind turbines can be found on extensive flatlands covered with grass where the wind blows evenly. Uneven terrain, trees, forests and buildings disturb the flow of air and reduce the efficiency of a wind power plant.

The construction of wind farms is most profitable in places where average annual wind speed exceeds 4 m/s, experts say. Such conditions can be found in several places in Poland, mainly in the coastal region of Pomerania in the north of the country and in the Suwałki region in the northeast. In the remaining parts of the country, winds blow with an average speed of around 2.8 m/s in summer and 3.8 m/s in winter. This problem can be overcome by mounting wind turbines on sufficiently high pylons-at least 30 meters above ground because the higher the altitude, the higher the average wind speed, experts say.

A large open space is needed to build a wind power plant because wind generators have to be mounted at a certain distance from one another. But this is no problem in Poland because it has large expanses of agricultural lowlands and areas such as former mining sites and closed airfields.

Offshore areas also provide good conditions for the construction of wind power plants. The space in such areas is open and free from any obstacles, while winds are stronger and more stable than inland. As a result, wind power can be used more effectively in offshore areas, while the generating equipment wears out less quickly there.

Pole position

Thanks to its access to the Baltic Sea, Poland has considerable potential for the development of offshore wind farms. The drawback of such facilities is that they are more expensive to build due to higher costs involved in the transport of equipment and personnel, and the need to use specialist equipment and lay cables underwater.

In Poland, the best conditions for the construction of wind power plants are in the coastal area and the Suwałki region. The largest number of such facilities has been built in West Pomerania and Pomerania provinces, especially in the vicinity of the towns of Darłowo and Puck. However, work is also under way to check wind conditions in the south of the country, especially in some higher parts of the mountains, to find out whether they are suitable for wind farm projects.

At present, Poland's largest wind farm is in Tymień, West Pomerania province. It has a total capacity of 50 MW. The farm is composed of 25 wind turbines, each mounted on a 100-meter pylon and with a capacity of 2 MW. The power plant meets all EU requirements in terms of efficiency and noise emission.

The construction of the wind farm started in 2005. The facility was put into operation a year later. The project was carried out by EEZ, a Polish company owned by British corporation Renewable Energy Generation and the Invenergy Win company of the United States. The money was provided by the Polish economy ministry and the EkoFundusz foundation, which supports various environmental projects in association with Bank Ochrony ¦rodowiska. The project cost zl.235 million. The electricity generated in Tymień is supplied to a power distribution company based in Koszalin.

Apart from the wind farm in Tymień, there are now 188 wind turbines of varying capacity in Poland. Most of these are isolated generating units or complexes of a few turbines with a small capacity-below 1 MW-scattered across the country. No license, not even a building permit, is needed to build small-capacity wind turbines.

Large industrial-scale wind power plants are located in Lisewo, Pomerania province (10.8 MW); Puck, Pomerania province (22 MW); Ostrowo, Pomerania province (30 MW); Barzowice, West Pomerania province (5.1 MW); Cisowo, West Pomerania province (18 MW); Zagórze, West Pomerania province (30 MW); Jagni±tkowo, West Pomerania province (30.6 MW); Łosina, West Pomerania province (48 MW); Kamieńsk, ŁódĽ province (30 MW); and Kisielice, Warmia-Mazuria province (40.5 MW).

Work is in progress to connect to the power grid wind power plants in Łebcz, Malbork, Gnieżdżeń and Zaj±czkowo, all in Pomerania province; Kar¶cino, Tychowo and ¦niatowo, West Pomerania province; and Górzyca and Rzepin, Lubuskie province. The largest of these plants, Kar¶cino, will have a capacity of 69 MW.

A large wind farm will also be built in Różyn, Warmia-Mazuria province. The 100-million-euro project was launched in October this year. The farm will be composed of 30 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 2 MW and mounted on a 108-meter-high pylon. The farm's total capacity will be 60 MW. Construction work will start in the spring of 2009 and the facility will be put into operation in 2010.

Polska Grupa Energetyczna plans to spend over zl.7 billion to build three large offshore farms on the Baltic. Each farm will be composed of 100 turbines with a capacity of 3 MW. The combined capacity of the farms will reach 900 MW.

Julia Pawłowska

Offshore vs. Onshore
According to Bogdan Gutkowski, chairman of the Polish Wind Energy Society in Gdańsk, it is possible to create "up to 20 fields for offshore wind farms, with a total area of approximately 2,000 square kilometers" in the Polish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on the Baltic. This is equivalent to wind power plants producing 8,000 MW, with a productivity of up to 32 TWh annually.

In the future, Poland's demand for electrical energy generated from renewable sources will be approximately 25 TWh a year, Gutkowski says. "I am convinced that in 10-15 years our approach to the production and transmission of electricity will be completely different," Gutkowski says. "Energy will be more ecological, with lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. A large part of the energy will be produced at sea, and its transmission from the sea to the shore and cross-border transmission throughout Europe will become the norm, because continental and underwater power grids will be global in character."

The cost of energy generated by offshore wind farms is slightly higher than by farms inland, but the former are more efficient, experts say. Inland turbines can operate 2,000-3,000 hours a year, compared with 7,500 hours for offshore turbines, which are powered by much stronger winds.

A single 300 MW offshore wind farm may generate the same amount of electric energy as two or three comparable inland farms.

Using winds blowing at significant altitudes, for example, 100 meters above sea level, offers particularly promising prospects. These winds are stronger and more stable, offering better use of high-capacity turbines, according to experts.

Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, a European parliament deputy, and EP rapporteur on energy technology development, says Poland should use offshore winds to the maximum because inland winds are too weak to support the development of a wind energy industry on a large scale. This can be partly compensated for by appropriate wind turbines that could effectively work even in weak winds, according to Buzek.

"In Polish conditions, it is better to use offshore winds since they are more stable," Buzek says. "That is why wind farms should be located in the sea rather than on land. However, there remains the issue of transferring the energy to the coast. What's more, wind farms should be included in the general energy network, which is difficult since the amount of energy generated by wind varies."

Poland should invest in intelligent energy networks that can handle variable output from wind farms, according to Buzek. This is a prerequisite for the success of the wind energy industry in this country, he says.

Overall, "it makes perfect sense to build wind farms in Poland, but one should keep in mind that this will be more difficult than in countries with better natural conditions," Buzek says.

Government Go-Ahead
The Polish Ministry of the Economy has developed a program that offers various forms of support to businesses wanting to produce wind power.

"The government has given investors the green light," says the ministry's Zbigniew Kamieński. "We will soon come up with a manual for investors, with step-by-step instructions on following the guidelines for setting up wind farms, to help them avoid unnecessary bureaucratic hassle."

The EU directive on generating power from renewable sources calls for obligatory purchases of all wind-produced energy, in addition to "green certificates" offering special terms for those buying power, a 50-percent discount on the cost of being hooked up to the power grid, and an exemption from fees involved in obtaining a concession and registering a wind farm. Wind farms will have first priority in procedures for connecting them to the national power grid, in addition to help from local governments and cooperation with local electricity buyers, according to Kamieński.

Financial incentives will include EU funds from the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program as well as money from Ekofundusz (Ecofund) available from Bank Ochrony ¦rodowiska, Kamieński says.

EU Co-Funding
Funds available under the EU's Infrastructure and Environment operational program may prove to be an additional incentive for companies investing in wind power generation in Poland, according to Łukasz Kowalski, an expert on renewable energy sources at the Institute for Fuels and Renewable Energy.

Around 350 million euros has been set aside under the program's Measure 9.4 (Energy Generation From Renewable Sources) for projects related to electricity and heat generation from renewable sources. The maximum possible funding is capped at 20 percent of the total cost of a project, Kowalski says. The development of wind power generation will also be supported indirectly by Measure 9.6 (Networks Facilitating the Reception of Energy From Renewable Sources) with EU funding set at 47 million euros, and Measure 10.3 (The Development of Industry for Renewable Energy Sources) with EU funding set at 27 million euros and the maximum level of funding capped at 30 percent of the project's cost.
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