Energy 17 February, 2023 9:30 am   

Nowak: The new distance rule for onshore wind is irresponsible (INTERVIEW)

Tomasz-Nowak.-Fot.-Autora-1536×1170 Tomasz Nowak. Picture by the author.

The government deciding to set the minimum distance between wind turbines and buildings at 700 meters means it’s irresponsible for its own words, the consultation process and for what is coming next. In order to get along with Zbigniew Ziobro, the Law and Justice (PiS) created a capacity shortage after 2025 – says Civic Platform MP Tomasz Nowak in an interview with During the parliamentary debate on the liberalization of the Distance Act, representatives of the ruling camp argued that the 10h rule was intended to stop pathologies in the construction of onshore wind farms in Poland. Were they right?

Tomasz Nowak: We are constantly dealing with negative politics. Minister Moskwa suggests that the process of setting up wind farms when the Civic Platform was in power was wrong, but on the other hand, PiS’s political conclusions led to negating onshore wind as such. This approach was disproportionate to the problem. The issue was that it was possible to build farms on the basis of a planning permission, and the environmental impact assessment could be prepared by the investors themselves. In some places, this was a problem, but instead of making changes, introducing zoning plans, which we were already implementing anyway, PiS preferred to kill all wind energy. The system only needed to be repaired, not decommissioned. In the end, onshore wind power developed only in places where solutions and plans were established during our term in office and on the basis of the law that had been in force earlier. And this is the only reason why, during the reign of PiS, there was any increase in onshore wind capacity. The PO-PSL government created conditions for the development of RES. PiS stopped it. I remember the first meetings of the energy committee in 2016, when it was said that we should allow only those energy sources that are stable, and  wind energy, as well solar power were questioned. The fact that solar energy was developing was due only to the fact that Poland was clearly beginning to lag behind the rest of the countries of the European Union, which became very visible during the rule of PiS. Then two decisions were made: first, they added timber to the settlements and stats on implementing the 15 percent RES target, and second they launched the “Mój Prąd” (My Power) program, which accelerated PV development. However, onshore wind power was harassed.

The government also claimed that the Distance Act would have limited impact, because Poland’s RES capabilities would grow mostly thanks to PVs and offshore wind. So what should be the role of onshore wind farms in relation to other renewable sources?

The government belittles the issues in which it has compromised itself. For several years, the government, seeing that there should be more wind power on land, was preparing a bill for consultation. This law has been sufficiently well discussed by ministries, industry, operators, etc. The parties reached consensus on the minimum distance – 500 m, but then minister Moskwa, within minutes, changed her mind and decided that 700 m would be good enough, despite the fact that this will slash the onshore capacity by half. Meanwhile, PSE (Polish grid operator – ed.) has prepared a report warning of power shortages that may occur in Poland after 2025. By 2030, the country may lose up to 10 GW of capacity, and as far as I know, PSE insists on saving everything that generates power at the moment, and doing everything to prolong the capacity market. In 2025, we will not have enough power, perhaps we will be forced to import energy. Of course, we should maintain cooperation with foreign countries, but above all we should strive for self-sufficiency. For this, wind energy is essential. After all, if the 10h principle had not been introduced, onshore wind energy (also thanks to the modernization of this technology) would lower electricity prices and reduce the demand for coal. Relying on wind and photovoltaics as complementary systems and electrifying heating with heat pumps could easily balance the system. Heat can be easily stored, so the dependence of RES on the weather would be smaller. However, this will not happen without the complementarity of wind and photovoltaics. When electricity is generated from the wind, it is usually not produced simultaneously from photovoltaics, and vice versa. At that point it will be important to secure the system with the so-called cable pooling, i.e. a joint link for e.g. solar power and wind farms.

The government deciding to set the minimum distance between wind turbines and buildings at 700 meters means it’s irresponsible for its own words, the consultation process and for what is coming next. In order to get along with Zbigniew Ziobro, PiS has created a capacity shortage after 2025. The entire European Union benefits from both photovoltaics and onshore wind. According to the REPowerEU program, we should invest in renewables much faster. As a result of the irresponsible actions of the government, the decision-making process on wind farms is being extended by at least 3-4 years. In addition, as a result of this decision, we are abandoning the existing spatial development plans that were created between 2010 and 2015, which included a distance of 500 metres. At the moment, 90 percent of these plans will have to be changed.

The government says that photovoltaics and offshore will suffice, but it will not be so, because our demand for power will grow, and we may also build an NPP and offshore wind farms. In this case the hole in the system will be even bigger.

However, the amended Distance Act introduced not only a minimum distance of 700 meters from the turbine to buildings, but also a new system for sharing the benefits of the wind farm with the local community, as well as new regulations on nature protection. What do you think of the new rules?

This is the good side of the law. In our project, we assumed that 3% of gross revenues would be transferred to local governments as a tax. I also had the concept of sharing in the profits of those on whose plots the wind farm was built, but also their neighbors, in proportion to the distance, so as not to arouse controversy. It looks like providing 10 percent of the farm’s power to the municipality seems very interesting, but I am concerned whether this is a hypothetical value, because how much a given municipality will use depends on the size of the farm and the municipality itself. Perhaps it will be an excess that will not be used.

Interview by Michał Perzyński