Wind energy – Polish draft act amending the act on investments in wind farms as a great opportunity for Poland

On the website of the Polish Government Legislation Center there was published a draft act aimed to amend the act on investments in wind farms (“the distance act” or “the 10H Act”). Currently, it is not possible to issue permits for the construction of wind farms at a distance less than ten times the total height of the turbine from residential properties and forms of nature protection. This is a very high risk both for the further development of this sector of electricity producers and for the already operating wind farms.

Slowdown in the construction of new wind farms in Poland

In 2012-2016, the increase in installed capacity amounted to an average of 838 MW per year (a record increase by 1225 MW in 2016), while in 2017-2019 (after the introduction of the act on investments in wind farms) the average increase was only 37 MW per year. This is the result of a ban on issuing new building permits, including a ban on issuing replacement permits and repowering projects, and thus a ban on adapting them to newer and more efficient turbines available on the market, as well as significant regulatory uncertainty resulting in banks withdrawing from financing investments in wind farms, which caused a regression in investments in the wind farm industry. Poland bears enormous costs related to the rapidly growing prices of CO2 emission allowances. The solution to this issue may be the increase in installed capacity in wind sources, as it is estimated that each 1 GW of installed capacity in windmills may reduce the wholesale energy price by as much as PLN 20 / MWh. Currently, the Polish National Reconstruction Plan does not meet the European Commission’s requirement, because 37% of the funds are not spent on green investments.

Draft act amending the distance act

Pursuant to the proposed amendment, it is the communes that will be able to change the minimum distance of turbine locations from residential buildings, based on the provisions of the Local Plan and reduce it, but not more than 500 meters. In order to determine this minimum distance, environmental impact forecasts will be carried out as part of the municipal spatial development plan. There was also a new obligation to adopt a local spatial development plan in the areas of municipalities that would be affected by such a wind farm – all in order to protect the inhabitants. After the amended regulations enter into force, residential buildings may be located on the basis of the decision on development conditions at a distance of not less than 500 meters or, if the investment is located on the basis of a local plan, the minimum distance cannot be less than the minimum distance specified in this document, resulting from the environmental impact report, and it will also not be smaller than 500 meters. Increased public participation during the development of MPZP would be implemented by the organization of a total of three consultation rounds.

Undoubtedly, the draft amendment to the distance act will have a positive impact on the development of the wind farm industry and is an opportunity for Poland to become independent from the combustion of hard coal and lignite. The amendment to the act prepared by the Polish Ministry of Development, Labor and Technology also takes into account the voice of the public when organizing consultations in communes.