Legislation that will pave the way for offshore windfarms in Poland is due to be published shortly, but developer Equinor is already making plans for construction and operation
As a partner in two Polish offshore wind projects that have secured environmental and other approvals and a third that has a permit and an agreement for a grid connection, Norwegian energy major Equinor is in prime position to develop projects in the Polish sector of the Baltic.
Equinor’s partner in the projects – the most advanced in Poland – is Polenergia, the largest Polish private, integrated energy group in the country, which implemented a 50/50 joint venture with Equinor in late 2019.
Equinor vice president and project director Vidar Birkeland told a webinar organised by Norwegian Energy in April that the company is awaiting publication of the Polish Government’s Offshore Wind Act, a draft of which was published in January 2020, but in the meantime is advancing plans for construction, operations and maintenance (O&M) on the trio of projects.
“We are expecting the legislation to be published shortly,” Mr Birkeland explained. “The level of support has not been agreed yet. We are looking forward to seeing that but believe it will be sufficient to develop a sound project.”
The Offshore Wind Act includes a support scheme for offshore wind similar to the UK’s contracts for difference (CfD) and addresses solutions to facilitate the development and operation of offshore wind, as well as incentives for developing local supply chains.
The draft of the law outlined the development of more than 10 GW of new capacity, to be awarded CfDs by 2028 in two phases. The first phase of 4.6 GW is reserved for the most advanced projects – such as those with connection agreements – and will be selected by Poland’s energy regulator between 2020 and 2022 with a strike price fixed by the government.
Thereafter, 5.5 GW more capacity will be competitively auctioned in at least three tenders between 2023 and 2028. Given their maturity, it is in this first phase of contracts that Equinor hopes to secure a deal for its projects.
Polenergia was the first entity to obtain environmental decisions for two offshore windfarms in the Baltic, Bałtyk II, with a total capacity of up to 600 MW and Bałtyk III, with a total capacity of up to 1.2 GW. It also has ‘grid connection conditions’ (GCC) for Bałtyk II, the grid connection agreement for Bałtyk III, and a valid environmental decision for the construction of the transmission infrastructure from Poland’s transmission system operator (TSO).
Initial geotechnical surveys of the seabed have already been carried out for the projects and a two-year wind measurement campaign using Lidar has also been completed.
The third project, Bałtyk I, with a total capacity of up to 1.56 GW, has a location permit and a GCC from the TSO. The next key stages of Bałtyk II and Bałtyk III will be procuring a construction permit and selecting the technology to be used in the projects.
Mr Birkeland told the webinar that if it is selected to proceed with construction of Bałtyk II or Bałtyk III, Equinor plans to build the windfarm in its entirety and take responsibility for the grid connection.
At one stage, Poland’s national transmission system operator PSE expressed an interest in extending its responsibility beyond the shoreline and connecting offshore projects, although this idea was dropped in favour of generation developers developing their own connections as an integral part of their construction plans.
Mr Birkeland said a lot of investment will also be required in marshalling yards and port facilities for Polish projects, to make them ready to support large-scale offshore wind projects.
The Norwegian company has also developed O&M plans for the projects, but Mr Birkeland said he does not expect they will require the use of service operation vessels. He said Equinor anticipates that turbine technicians will be transported to the projects in crew transfer vessels.
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