Will Poland ever get offshore wind?

Although the offshore wind energy market is well-established in Western Europe, primarily in the UK and Denmark, Central and Eastern European nations have yet to appear on the offshore wind energy market map.

Analysis by Frost & Sullivan shows that in Poland, the total installed wind capacity reached 1005 MW in June 2010, all located onshore. Although some developers, such as PGE (Polish Energy Group), have expressed an interest in establishing offshore wind farms, the country presently lacks the wherewithal and support to implement these developments.

The most formidable obstructions faced by the offshore wind sector include the present absence of legislation enabling offshore wind projects, undeveloped grid infrastructure, and the lack of grid connectivity.

"Besides grid issues and a lack of legislation," says Frost & Sullivan Analyst Magdalena Dziegielewska, "several other aspects are holding the offshore wind market development back. One of them is that offshore platforms are established as artificial islands which, according to the Polish law, can only exist for five years. This is a complication, as the investment process takes approximately 7 to 8 years and the wind farm operates for at least 20-25 years."

Wind on the horizon

However, recent changes bode well for the market. External pressure placed on Poland is encouraging a move towards offshore wind farms. In order to fulfil EU obligations, Poland will have to boost its total installed capacity from the present 1005 MW to 10-12 GW by 2020, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). This increase will be very difficult to achieve without the high productivity of offshore wind energy farms.

Also, the Polish Marine Network Consortium has been created to spur development and remove barriers faced by the offshore wind sector. "One way to do so," says Dziegielewska, "is to develop the Polish Baltic Track in order to establish a high voltage, transmission submarine network. This will assist in connecting offshore wind park power transformers with a main grid to allow future connections of wind parks."

An optimistic outlook suggests that with the necessary legislative changes and grid development, the first offshore wind parks may be established during the next 10 years.