Hetmański: Unlocking onshore wind potential or a rotten compromise?


  • Liberalization of the anti-wind law in Poland is being thrown in the bin by extending the required distance of windmills from residential buildings over 500 meters. Instrat experts recall their estimates of wind energy potential.
  • By moving the slider towards 700 meters, politicians are opting for imported expensive gas, not just fewer onshore windmills as they think. 
  • What’s the economic impact in the short run: 1 gigawatt of onshore turbines generates 400+ million EUR in savings on imported natural gas or 200+ million EURon coal.

Instrat published a study in mid-2021 which shows that Poland can easily unlock the potential of onshore energy. Liberalizing the damaging 10H rule according to the government’s original draft two years ago would give the opportunity to develop affordable wind power on up to 7 per cent of Poland’s territory. For more than six years, as much as 99.7 per cent of the country has been excluded and the government urgently needs to change this.

The lower chamber of the parliament (Sejm) agreed on the amendment, a so-called compromise, i.e. to move the limit from the 500 meters of distance between wind turbines and residential buildings originally proposed by the Ministry of Climate and Environment to 700 meters from the current approx. 1,500 meters. Splitting the distance in half is not a method of compromise, experts explain.

Anything beyond 500 meters is a rotten compromise and pretending that by meeting in the middle we are reaching some kind of consensus. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of investment projects that were ready to start just after the liberalization of the anti-wind law were, over the last few years, designed for this distance. Adapting these projects to the new distance is not going to happen overnight – it will slow down a number of ready-to-go projects that we needed by yesterday – says Michal Hetmanski, Instrat’s CEO, an energy and climate expert.

According to Instrat’s 2021 study, the potential for onshore wind power is 18 GW under the assumptions of liberalization to the 500 meter distance. Currently, we have just over 7 GW, and in the long term we could reach up to 32 GW of new investments. How does the new 700 meter proposal compare with these numbers? Experts are currently trying to estimate that.

– In a 30-year perspective, the change from 500 to 700 meters doesn’t seem to have that much of an impact, so it’s tempting to say ‘let’s just agree since it’s not too bad in the long term’. This is exactly the thinking of those who have been blocking wind energy development for the past six years. The impact of this change on existing projects within this decade is fundamental though. As a result, instead of going for 18 GW of onshore wind capacity in 2030 we will stop shortly after reaching 11 GW – says Hetmański.

Every 1 GW of onshore wind power means a lot to Polish sovereignty and energy security says Bernard Swoczyna, Chief Expert at the Instrat’s Energy and Climate Program. – We can produce 3.3 TWh of electricity per year from such capacity. In order to produce the same amount of electricity from natural gas – let us remind ourselves that it was dependence on it that caused the energy crisis and record high prices – one would have to buy more than half a billion cubic meters of gas abroad, which at today’s price from the Polish Power Exchange results in a bill of as much as 400+ million euro (not to mention CO2 charges). This is how much gas is used in half a year by e.g. one of the largest chemical industrial players Zakłady Azotowe Puławy, or almost 10% of the annual capacity of Poland’s gas terminal. A similar bill for imported hard coal shows savings of nearly 200 million euro – the expert warns.

Those in power should be aware that with every 10, 50 and 100 meters further from the 500, they increase the Polish bill for fossil fuels imports. Energy policy is not a computer game with slider to move – this has negative economic and geopolitical consequences for Poland. Under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, we have committed to reaching significant progress, not another ‘deform’ that could again block the flow of funds into the country – concludes Michał Hetmanski, Instrat’s CEO.

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