Poland ready to ride clean energy winds that Russia is blowing off

Publish date: August 27, 2007

Written by: Galina Raguzina

Translated by: Maria Kaminskaya

KALININGRAD - Having shown little appreciation for generous clean energy prospects in its Kaliningrad region, Russia instead is letting its neighbour Poland reap the benefits of wind power afforded by the gales of the Baltic Sea: In the near future, Poland’s coastline will feature hundreds of wind turbines to help develop renewable energy in the country.

“They have discovered a wind corridor (in Poland), where the speed and consistency of wind create the most favourable conditions for the installation of wind turbines,” Jaroslav Chubinski, Poland’s consul-general in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, said in an interview with Bellona Web.

“For four years, studies have been conducted there and now, there are huge wind farms with hundreds of wind turbines there.”

The Good Energies coming
In May this year, Good Energies Investments, a leading European investment fund which has British and American share capital and works in the renewable energy sector, announced it was launching its first project in Poland to build a wind farm with a combined capacity of 120 megawatts on Poland’s Baltic coastline, near the cities of Slupsk and Ustka in Central Pomerania.

The 48 wind energy generation units equipped with 2.5 megawatt turbines supplied by General Electric will be installed by the end of 2008. Carried out by PS Wind Management, the project’s price tag is EUR 175m. By 2010, investors are planning to spend an additional EUR 175m to increase the number of units to a total of 180 at a combined capacity of 240 megawatts.

“By September 2008, we would like to prepare all the infrastructure, lay the cables and build access ways so that later we would be able to install between four and seven turbines a week,” the project’s director Marek Kaminski told the Polish newspaper Puls Biznesu.

In today’s Poland, only 3.75 percent of all energy comes from renewable energy sources. At the same time, Poland, as a member of the European Union, has recently taken on an obligation to increase the share of renewable energy sources in its energy economy to 20 percent by 2020 – an especially difficult task for a former member of the Communist bloc.

Just as in its neighbour Russia, the development of alternative energy sources in Poland is hindered by the high costs of renewable energy projects, the long waiting period before investors can receive a return on their money, as well as various bureaucratic and technical difficulties of plugging into the main electrical grid. Additionally, the European Union is not particularly generous with funds it earmarks on the development of clean energy within the framework of the Regional Operative Programme planned for the period of 2007 to 2013, and financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Poland’s Central Pomerania has to make do with only EUR 12m to explore its clean energy possibilities.

Renewable energy a potential business bonanza
Fortunately, renewable energy is just as much a promising business as it is a cure for today’s environmental woes. As an investment tool, it attracts enough foreign capital to be able to cope with economic and administrative stumbling blocks and help Poland accomplish its goals in the renewable energy market.

“This is a requirement of the European Union, and there is no way back from that,” Kaminski said in an interview with the Polish publication Dziennik Baltycki. “Furthermore, we understand more and more that the reserves of traditional energy sources – coal or gas – could run out in the near decades. And, of course, (there are) purely ecological considerations. A wind park does not generate waste that could be detrimental for the environment.”

Wind parks are expected to not only profit big business and benefit the environment, but financially help local administrations and farms as well. PS Wind Management is ready to spend around PLN 70m (EUR 18.5m) on lease contracts to use the lands on which wind turbines, cable infrastructure and access ways will be built. During the 20 or 30 years that every such contract will be in effect, a landowner will be paid PLN 20,000, as rent money for installation of a wind farm on their land.

The wind energy “windfall”
When in May last year the Tymien wind farm started operating in Koszalin in Western Pomerania, this project happened to be the largest among wind energy initiatives in Central Europe. The American company Invenergy, together with Poland’s EEPN Sp.z o.o., built 25 Vestas-produced wind energy generating units there, each with a 2 megawatt capacity. The model in use is V.80, equipped with 80-metre blades propped on a 100-metre mast. The electric power generated by the Tymien wind farm is now purchased by three energy supply companies on long-term contracts.

But the time is coming for Pomerania – which already is using 56 wind energy generating units of varying capacities – when wind turbines will be as common a sight as road signs. There are 142 wind turbines currently in use in Poland. A recent statement from Germany’s CB Windenergy said the company is planning to install 104 wind energy generators with a capacity of 2.3 megawatts each in the rural lands near Slupsk, Ustka, Potegowo and Postomino. The company is also looking to build a wind farm in the Slupsk area, which is a so-called special economic zone – a status that commonly affords a business-friendly tax code, among other economic benefits.

Other German businesses are investing into the construction of wind energy generating units at the former Polish air field of Konarzyny – 20 of these are to be operational by 2008 to 2009 – and a wind park of 15 turbines in the rural area of Gniewino.

Additionally, the Japanese consortium Mitsui and J-Power are planning to spend EUR 70m on a 24-strong wind turbine park in the vicinity of the villages of Widzin and Zajaczkowo in the Slupsk region.

Polish winds are catching the eye of Spanish capital as well: Spain’s Iberdrola will invest PLN 80m into the construction of 12 wind turbines in the village of Koniecwałd; Spanish funds are also expected to finance a wind farm in the agricultural district of Pelplin.

Polish companies are trying to keep the pace, too. This year, the Slupsk-based company Enwod intends to build a wind energy converter near the settlement of Wicko, for which it already bought the necessary plots of land from the state-owned Agency for Agricultural Property. A Szczecin-based company called Renpro has invested funds into the installation of 20 wind turbines in the rural parts near Skarszew. Yet another wind park comprising 30 wind energy generating units will appear in the place of the former military air field in Kopaniewo. A whole army of wind turbines is seen spreading across Poland’s other rural areas.

Still smug in their smog
The so-called “Baltic Wind Corridor” does in fact exist on the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea, including the Russian enclave of the Kaliningrad region – and Russian scientists have known that for a long time.

“This (area) is characterised by a stronger wind activity compared to other coastal regions of the Baltic Sea, which explains the high level of wind energy potential in the (Kaliningrad) region, especially on the seashore,” says Dr. Stanislav Tupikin, a geographer and a faculty member of the Kaliningrad-based Immanuel Kant State University, in his work “The Weather and Climate of the Baltic Sea,” published by the St. Petersburg publishing house Gidrometeoizdat in 1992. If only Russian lawmakers were to heed to Tupikin’s hopeful estimations.

But last May, Oleg Gladkov, the then-head executive of Yantarenergo – the energy supplier for the Kaliningrad region and the operator of the only wind park in existence in Russia – announced that the implementation of further wind energy projects in his region would be temporarily halted until relevant normative and legal acts were drawn up, and the necessary technological conditions were created to serve as a basis for the generation of ecologically clean energy. Thus, Kaliningrad residents can stop holding their breath waiting for the construction of an offshore wind park to be installed on the shelf of the Baltic Sea, among other projects.

A source in the Kaliningrad regional parliament told Bellona Web that renewable energy legislation has been completely absent from the agendas of the region’s state administration offices or the parliament’s special committee dealing with energy issues. Nor is there any mention of any work being done on such legislation in the numerous parliamentary materials. As for the Russian Parliament, the State Duma, a law on renewable energy sources was under consideration there for many years but was never passed.

The hopes to develop wind energy in the Kaliningrad region withered further with the recent appointment of Yantarenergo’s new general director, Mikhail Tsikel. During his first public appearance as Yantarenergo’s chief executive at a briefing to reporters on August 10th, the former top manager of a daughter company of the oil giant Lukoil and the former vice governor of the region dotted all the “i”s for the public: Renewable energy, he said, can cover no more than 10 percent of the population’s energy demand, which means the region will not be able to do without a thermoelectric power plant or, possibly, even a nuclear power station.