For this to happen, a dynamic growth in installed capacity in wind farms, up to 24 GW in 2040, would be needed.
Tapping the potential of onshore wind power will not be possible without a new approach to location of wind farms. Today the development of new projects is hampered by regulations of the Wind Turbine Act (the so-called “10h principle”).
However, removing the location restrictions, possibly with consent of local communities, would not only contribute to economic development of Polish regions, but also boost the entire national economy.
Dynamics depend on ambition
According to the WiseEuropa report “Contribution of domestic suppliers to the development of onshore wind power and its impact on the Polish labour market by 2040”, outlining a long-term development plan for the wind industry is key to maximizing economic benefits related to expansion of onshore wind capacity. The reports estimates that each additional 10 MW in onshore wind in Poland would generate 61 direct jobs at the preparation and construction stage (173 jobs including indirect employment) and 2 additional full-time jobs at a wind farm during its lifetime (6 jobs if indirect employment is included).
– In the dynamic capacity addition scenario, with 24 GW installed by 2040, as many as 42,000 jobs could be created around the wind sector, with 11,000 in companies directly cooperating with the wind industry. A stagnation scenario, with only 10 GW installed by 2025 and maintained on that level after that date, would worsen the situation of domestic suppliers and result in a drop in employment around the sector to 13,000 full-time jobs – explains Janusz Gajowiecki, the President of the Polish Wind Energy Association.
In order to demonstrate the current manufacturing activity and the future potential of Enercon and Famet production plants in Opole, on 24 July 2019 the Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA) organized a study trip for journalists and public administration representatives. Both these factories already manufacture turbine components used to build wind farms both in Poland and abroad.
– Despite the investment gap in the sector, resulting from the location restrictions introduced, these plants did not reduce their production. During lean years they provided components for exports. On the other hand neither Famet nor Enercon were able to expand their production capacity due to lack of domestic demand in that period – Mr Gajowiecki hints. – The current situation means underutilized potential of both those particular companies and the entire Silesian region – PWEA President adds.
Larger capacities only for exports – for now
Enercon currently manufactures two generators per week, amounting to approx. 100 machines per year. The Opole facility employs 120 people and was located in a single hall with an area of 7,000 square metres. In August 2019 another 2,200 sq m hall will be completed. Increasing the production capacity to ca. 150 generators per year will lead to increased employment in Enercon’s Opole plant – to about 180 people starting from next year. The company sells its products primarily to Germany and France. Its representatives declare that if the Polish market was revived and additional orders appeared, it would be able to further increase production.
A similarly dynamic development is experienced by the neighbouring plant of Famet Process Equipment and Machinery. This Polish industrial company began by providing products for the coke and steel industry, but with time it started to diversify its activity, expanding its product offer with nacelles, generator housings and brake discs. It currently employs over 1,500 people in five production facilities in Poland. Last year the sales of wind turbine components amounted to 57% of the company’s total sales.
– It is a perfect example of how wind power may become an opportunity for transition in regions such as Silesia, heavily dependent on the conventional energy sector – Mr Gajowiecki concludes.
A chance for EU funding
Companies such as Enercon or Famet stand a chance of obtaining EU funding under the funds allocated for the so-called just transition. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has already announced that she would support such efforts in traditional coal regions. This demonstrates the European Union’s readiness to allocate funds for regions such as Silesia for programmes allowing local communities to find employment in new, prospective industries, including the wind power sector.
Representatives of the wind industry in Poland are working hard on projects that would contribute to the idea of just transition of Silesia.
Savings from green energy
Some grass-roots efforts are already taking place in that direction. So-called energy clusters are being established, with a purpose of making the energy sector more distributed and greener. One of the examples is the Oława Energy Cluster (EKO) located in Lower Silesia, which we were able to visit during our 24 July study tour. The leader of the cluster, Promet-Plast, uses its wind farm to power a production facility of single-use articles for the European medical sector.
The Promet-Plast plant is powered by renewable energy. The company is not only happy with the decision to switch to green energy, but it also reduces its electricity demand. Thanks to automation and use of robotics in manufacturing, the annual energy consumption of the plant dropped from 8064 MWh to 1776 MWh. The company’s owner plans more investments in the future. He intends to expand the wind and PV capacity, install a methane and hydrogen cogeneration installation and build energy storage.
As Promet-Plast’s owner, Mr Andrzej Jeżewski emphasizes, green energy generation is not just added value due to savings, but it is also a bargaining chip in obtaining orders for supplies of medical equipment to West European markets. – In Germany, France, the Netherlands or the UK, products manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner are preferred over others – he explains.
Other members of the cluster include MetalERG (straw-fired boiler manufacturer), Tauron Ekoenergia, Oława County Authority (Starostwo), Oława Municipality, Oława Town and the Municipal Heating Company.