Executive summary

  • The 10H wind farm proximity rule introduced in 2016 blocked the development on onshore wind projects in Poland, excluding 97% of the land for new investments
  • The government is proposing to loosen the rule to a distance of 500m from residential areas
  • The proposed change might not be enough to bring wind projects back on track (still limiting the economic potential to 8.8 GW)
  • A more progressive law is needed, with proximity thresholds loosened also for natural reserves. This could increase the economic potential to 17.7 GW – a value closer to what Poland needs to decarbonize the energy mix

Context

The development of onshore wind in Poland is a perfect example of how rapid policy changes can accelerate or (in this case) completely block the energy transition. Until 2016, the installed capacity of onshore wind farms increased rapidly, even 1 GW / year. However, these rapid investments did not take into account social acceptance – projects were built close to residential areas, with no public consultations. Eventually, social pressure pushed the government to pass the “anti-wind-energy” bill in May 2016 (Dz.U. 2016 poz. 961). This included a 10H distancing rule – wind turbines could not be placed within a radius of 10 times the total height of the turbine. For the most popular Vestas V80 and V90 turbines, this meant 1000-1500m depending on the hub height. For modern turbines like the Vestas V150 (with total heights exceeding 200m) this would increase to over 2 km!

This, together with changes in taxes and support mechanisms, had a dramatic effect on the deployment of wind in Poland – after 2016 the capacity stagnated at around 5,8 GW, with annual rates of just ~50 MW.

Onshore wind installed capacity

10H law blocks most of Poland from wind investments

Recently, the government started looking into loosening the 10H law. I wanted to analyze how these changes could affect the development of wind energy projects, focusing on land availability. The starting point is shown on the figure below. Under the 10H law, 97% of Polish land is excluded from potential wind farm investments because of the proximity of residential areas and natural reserves (which were also included in the anti-wind-energy bill).

Land availability for modern wind turbines in Poland (Vestas V150) under the 10H law

This means that only around 10420 km2 is left for wind turbine investments. In theory, this could still allow the installation of 12 thousand Vestas V150 turbines (reaching over 50GW of capacity, assuming 10 rotor diameter = 1500m turbine spacing). However, the available land is located mostly in central Poland, where wind conditions are average. The most economically attractive areas (in the north) are excluded, pushing the onshore wind sector into stagnation. Adding a threshold of average wind speeds above 7 m/s at 100 m height (for largest farms like Przykona or Lotnisko it’s 7.5 m/s) lowers the available land to 0.22% = 686 km2, allowing for a economically feasible capacity of 3.7 GW. This is 2 GW below the current capacity and shows that there is absolutely no room for expanding the wind fleet in Poland with the current regulations. Interestingly, using Vestas V90 turbines (most popular in the existing fleet) the economic potential is 5.6 GW – almost exactly the capacity today. This shows the model is pretty accurate, despite not taking into account grid connectivity and the fact that some existing turbines were built within the 10H restricted regions.

Land availability and wind conditions in Poland

Methodology

How were these results obtained? Using the GLAES framework (full citation: Ryberg, D.S.; Robinius, M.; Stolten, D. Evaluating Land Eligibility Constraints of Renewable Energy Sources in Europe. Energies 2018, 11, 1246). GLAES can be used to assess land eligibility for renewable energy investments based on a predefined set of criterias. These can include the proximity of roads, settlements, cities, airports, power lines, natural areas and many others. Some examples are shown below:

Exclusion criteria for onshore wind development in Poland

The full set used in this excercise is described below:

CategoryCriterionThresholdUnitSource
SociopoliticalSettlements>2kmCLC
Commercial Airports>5.1kmEuroStat
Primary Roadways>300mOSM
Secondary Roadways>300mOSM
Railways>300mOSM
Power Lines>250mOSM
Industrial Areas>300mCLC
Mining Sites>300mCLC
PhysicalSlope<8.5degreesEuroDEM
Water Bodies>400mHydroLakes, WWF
Elevation<1750mEuroDEM
ConservationBird>2kmWDPA
Habitats>2kmWDPA
Biospheres>2kmWDPA
Landscapes>2kmWDPA
Parks>2kmWDPA
Natural Monuments>2kmWDPA
Woodlands>0kmCLC
EcoWind Speed>4.0m/sGWA

Criteria set based on: Ryberg, D.S.; Tulemat, Z.; Stolten, D.; Robinius, M.; Uniformly constrained land eligibility for onshore European wind power, Renewable Energy 146 (2020) and Ryberg, D. S., Robinius, M., & Stolten, D. (2017). Methodological Framework for Determining the Land Eligibility of Renewable Energy Sources. ArXiv.

The list of data sources can be found below:

CLCCopernicus Land Monitoring Service. European Environmental Agency (EEA). (2012). Corine Land Cover (CLC) 2012, Version 18.5.1.
EuroStatGISCO. “Transport Networks: Airports 2013”. Eurostat. Published Jan. 2013. Retrieved Oct. 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/gisco/geodata/reference-data/transport-networks
OSMOpenStreetMap contributors. “Planet dump”. Accessed Oct. 2017. https://planet.osm.org
EuroDEMEuropean Evironment Agency (EEA). “Digital Elevation Model over Europe (EU-DEM)”. Published Oct. 2013. Accessed Oct. 2017. https://www.eea.europa.eu/ds_resolveuid/ca503256de1b4231b029e4145d0a8b7b
HydroLakes, WWFGISCO. “Hydrography (LAEA)”. Eurostat. Published 2014. Accessed Oct. 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/gisco/geodata/reference-data/elevation/hydrography-laea
WDPAUNEP-WCMC and IUCN. Cambridge, UK. (2016). Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA)
GWATechnical University of Denmark. “Global Wind Atlas V1.0”. Published 2015. Accessed Oct. 2017. https://globalwindatlas.info/downloads/gis-files

Will 10H be lifted?

The government is proposing changes in the 10H rule – allowing local authorities to lower the settlement proximity limit down to 500m. Assuming all communities support the change, the land exclusion decreases to 88%, adding an extra 27 thousand square kilometers of land available for wind projects.

Lifting the 10H rule for settlement proximity increases land availability

Importantly, this adds some land in the north, where economically viable projects could be developed:

More land is available in windy areas if settlement proximity threshold is decreased

The technical potential for installing wind turbines (again Vestas V150) is increased 3-fold, up to 38 thousand turbines. These are already good results, but still the most attractive regions (in terms of wind speed) are not available for investments. The economic potential using new turbines is estimated at 8.8 GW – this is still not enough to achieve a carbon neutral energy mix.

A more viable solution

Therefore, I proposed an alternative scenario, where the 10H rule is decreased to 500m not only for residential areas and settlements, but also for natural areas – reserves, national parks etc.

Decreasing the 10H limit for both settlements and natural areas opens room for RES

This finally opens up some room for RES investments, increasing the available land by 8 times comparing to the 10H scenario (up to 82000km2).

Finally, land becomes available in the most windy regions

Most importantly, this finally enables RES investments in north-western Poland where best wind conditions are available and where wind energy projects can be economically attractive even without state support (subsidies / auctions), making them immune to political changes. This increases the theoretical potential to a staggering 66 thousand V150 turbines. More importantly, the economic potential increases to 17.7 GW, which is almost twice what was proposed in the NECP for 2040

Conclusions

The summary of the results for the different scenarios is shown in the table below:

ScenarioExclusion (%)Available area (km2)Technical potential (#)Economicly viable area (km2)Economical potential (#)Economical potential (GW)
10H old fleet93.96%1884439794127928215.6
10H new fleet96.66%10421123636868783.7
Gov scenario – old fleet86.23%4296182916237147479.5
Gov scenario – new fleet87.85%3790738349193421038.8
Progressive scenario – old fleet73.60%823661205174524800616.0
Progressive scenario – new fleet73.60%82366660254524420517.7

This is of course a preliminary study. It does however show, that while the industry is awaiting changes in the legal framework, the proposed update of the 10H rule might not be enough and more progressive options should be discussed.

I tried to describe all the assumptions, but please feel free to contact me about the details.

I wanted to thank the GLAES team for building and opening such a valuable tool and, in particular Severin Ryberg, for his support in using GLAES.

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