Poland struggles with gas and wind

By bne IntelliNews April 19, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

Poland has awarded five licences to build wind farms off the Baltic coast, three of them going to state-controlled utility PGE. However, further concessions are reported to have been blocked by the country's shale gas push.

PGE announced on April 18 that it has been awarded three permits to build three offshore wind farms with a combined potential capacity of 3.45GW. Overall, the government granted five offshore permits for a total capacity of 4.5 GW, Mikolaj Karpinski, a spokesman for the Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy Ministry, told Bloomberg in an e-mail.

Whilst the name of the operators of the other two licences have not been officially revealed, oil refiner PKN Orlen said last week that it is set to receive a permit to build an offshore wind farm "within days," while Rzeczpospolita claimed last week that Kulczyk Investments already has government approval. The investors will have six years, with an option to extend by two, to build the wind farms in the promising Baltic waters, an official said in February.

The three licences handed to PGE will see the country's biggest utility take an impressive lead in development of the segment, given that Poland currently has no offshore wind infrastructure. PGE's strategy calls for 1GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2020, with that to double within the following five years, reports Reuters.

The government had reported huge interest in the permits earlier this year, claiming it had received 59 applications. However, specialist media reports that the Ministry of Environment is blocking most of the licences because they could disturb Poland's frantic push to develop its shale gas reserves.

Windpower Monthly reported on April 16 that the ministry is opposed to the majority of the country's 40 proposed offshore wind farm locations because most of the area is rich in shale gas and aggregates reserves.

President of the Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society Bogdan Gutkowski warned that the problem is serious, saying: "Currently we are considering what steps to take to solve it." Industry experts claimed that the Ministry of Infrastructure, having taken the opinion of the Ministry of Environment into account, would hand out only four of the 40 permits. It appears they were one out.

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