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The lower house of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, this week will vote on a government proposal to water down a damaging ‘10H’ distance rule for onshore wind, which since it came into effect in 2016 has excluded most of the country’s territory from new projects.
Industry lobby WindEurope has called upon lawmakers to approve a proposal for a minimum distance between wind turbines and residential buildings of 500 metres, which is in line with other European countries.
The currently valid 10H rule means the minimum distance is 10 times the tip height of a turbine, which for modern machines means around 2km or more.
“The Polish Parliament must not mess up the 10H revision if they are serious about energy security,” WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson said.
“The minimum distance between housing and wind turbines must be 500 metres. Anything higher and Poland will struggle to meet its renewables targets and will remain more exposed than it wants to energy imports.”
Poland and other Eastern European countries are currently trying to speed up their renewable energy expansion in an attempt to wean themselves off Russian energy imports. That had already prompted the government in Warsaw to accelerate its offshore wind plans, but onshore regulation still had been unambitious.
The governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) in the Sejm is depending on the votes of smaller and even more nationalist or far-right parties for a majority, often making votes unpredictable. It was actually a PiS majority that had pushed through the damaging 10H rule in 2016 due to its strong links to coal mining, which according to the wind sector has effectively excluded 98% of Polish territory from new onshore wind development.
A similar – and equally damaging [sic] – 10H rule has recently been watered down in Bavaria, Germany’s biggest state by landmass, raising hopes in the industry that the wind power expansion could finally take off there.
The proposed new distance rule in Poland would also improve the financial participation of local citizens in wind farms as developers will have to offer a share of at least 10% of each new wind farm energy to local communities.
Reducing the minimum distance to 500 metres will generate €100m ($109m) to €200m of additional revenue for local municipalities and unlock €17bn worth or orders for products and services along the wind energy supply chain, WindEurope estimates.
“Polish companies and local communities want more wind energy to help bring down their electricity bills and ensure energy independence from Russia,” Dickson said.
“The economic benefits are overwhelmingly clear. Poland would lose out badly if it messed up this opportunity to unlock onshore wind.”
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