ANALYSIS: Return to 700 metres for wind turbines harms local governments

by dbereza

ANALYSIS: Return to 700 metres for wind turbines harms local governments

by dbereza

by dbereza
Currently there are approximately 500 completed local plans featuring wind farms, worth more than PLN 100 million. The first investments could be built on the basis of such plans within the next 3 years.  If the Sejm, disregarding the Senate’s opinion, will revert to the 700-metre distance, that single decision will thrash 84% of these plans. Instead of developing wind energy where it has already been planned, local governments will plan anew, in the vicinity, and this will take years, an analysis by Urban Consulting demonstrates. This will harm the less wealthy ones, local governments alarm.

In Poland there area approximately 500 unused local spatial development plans (local plans), allowing for the construction of wind energy projects. Had all these applicable local plans been used, the share of electricity from wind would increase by more than 10 GW, with projects completed in 1 to 3 years.

Development of these plans cost local governments approximately PLN 65 million. Further PLN 40 million were paid for amendments to land use plans allowing for wind turbines (adoption of a local plan allowing for the location of wind turbines requires prior amendment of the land use plan). In total, the applicable local plans together with land use plans cost Polish local governments more than PLN 100 million, an analysis by UrbanConsulting experts demonstrates.[1]

Therefore, an apparently insignificant change of just 200 metres may have a great impact on the development of wind energy in Poland in the next years. If MPs reject the Senate’s amendments and revert to a minimum distance of 700 metres, they will waste the potential of 84% of ready-to-use local plans.

This means that municipalities intent on developing RES in their territory will have to abandon the applicable plans and bear great expenses to develop the required documentation from scratch with regard to the new minimum distance.

The change from 500 to 700 metres harms less wealthy municipalities that simply cannot afford the development of new plans. It is an inexplicable additional burden for local governments — one cannot understand why one cannot build new wind farms on the basis of adopted plans. New documentation requires substantial effort and costs for the budget of a local government unit. This will cause a loss for the least wealthy municipalities awaiting new wind energy investments in their vicinity, which simply cannot afford it, with millions of PLN in taxes being lost, and energy security of their inhabitants remaining but a dream,” said Leszek Świętalski from the Association of Rural Communes of the Republic of Poland.

Without plans, wind energy investments in municipalities cannot be pursued. Municipalities closely watch the politicians that will decide the fate of onshore wind. It is understandable, for investments entail substantial revenues for local budgets and development of the communities. This is particularly important today, when cooperation between local governments and energy sector investors may provide a sound revenue foundation in times of uncertainty for budget revenue planning.

It is estimated that taxes on wind farms already built and scheduled for construction in the next years will contribute to the municipalities’ budgets approximately PLN 150–200 thousand per single wind turbine. The amount needs to be multiplied by the number of turbines and their lifetime, which can reach 30 years. We’re talking millions of PLN of yearly contribution to the municipalities’ budgets.

Resignation from 84% of the local plans means resignation from areas at least partially developed for investment purposes, i.e. areas with completed environmental studies, obtained environmental decisions, grid connection conditions, and with social acceptance gained through public consultations, for the benefit of areas where today investments may be implemented only theoretically,” says Filip Sokołowski, town planner, CEO of UrbanConsulting, the author of the analysis.

More importantly, part of the projects awaiting the possibility to be completed not only hold applicable local plans or land use plans, but also the required documentation: bird or bat monitoring, wind speed and direction measurements, concluded lease contracts or even environmental decisions.

Implementation of 700 metres means that no local plan could be used in the Mazowieckie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Śląskie and Małopolskie provinces. New wind farms could be built not earlier than in 6–7 years. That time may be additionally extended due to the planned reform of the Spatial Planning and Development Act.