Poland’s controversial wind energy law voted on this week
The Polish Parliament is working to amend the country’s infamous wind turbine act, which currently blocks onshore wind farm development in Poland, but critics say the new version does little to solve the problem.
Since 2016, new wind turbine installations in Poland must be built between 1,500 and 1,700 metres from the nearest residential building, based on a rule that the distance must be at least 10 times the wind turbine’s height.
Polish lawmakers originally planned to empower municipal authorities to allow for shorter distances in their local zoning plans, provided a minimum length of 500m was preserved.
But while it was awaiting consensus from lawmakers, a hand-written modification extended the distance from 500m to 700m.
The amendment’s author, lawmaker Marek Suski from the Law and Justice party (PiS), stated that 700m is the average required distance in other EU countries and is a compromise with citizens considering 500m too close.
However, not everyone is convinced.
“A 200m increase in the required distance results in a 44% increase in the excluded area across Poland,” according to estimates from Polish consulting firm Ambiens.
As for the Polish wind industry, it says the 700m rule would reduce their possible installed capacity by approximately 60-70%.
The amended wind turbine act was passed in a committee vote in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) and will be voted on in plenary this week. It will then pass to the Senate, which will have up to 30 days to review and amend it before going to the president for signing in its final form.
Amending the minimum distance rule for wind turbines was listed among the “milestones” that Poland needs to meet to unlock its share of funding under the EU’s €800 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) adopted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
As things stand, the so-called “10H rule” hugely restricts investments in wind turbines on land, with over 99.7% of Polish territory not eligible for wind investments.
Even though the new 700m rule is higher than 500m, it’s still twice smaller than the infamous 10H rule and a step in the right direction for Poland’s onshore wind sector.
“Renewable energy is essential for Poland to meet its 2030 climate targets and improve energy security,” says Marcin Kowalczyk from WWF Polska.
“Unblocking onshore wind energy, a milestone for Poland to receive money under the national recovery plan, will allow for increased production of low-cost renewable energy and independence from imported fossil fuels. This means security, tangible financial benefits for Polish citizens, and the fulfilment of Poland’s climate commitments,” he said.