Poland’s Offshore Wind Sector Set to Boom

Adam Meller
Adam Meller speaking at the conference

Published Oct 21, 2019 5:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

Poland’s is set to become one of the biggest centers in Europe for offshore wind, according to speakers at the Maritime Economy Forum Gdynia held earlier this month who predict the sector will generate an estimated 77,000 jobs and 14.1 billion Euros ($15.7 billion) for the economy by 2030. 

Poland’s biggest energy company PGE presented forecasts at the conference showing Poland’s Baltic Sea has the capacity to generate nine to 12GW of energy, ranking it second only to the North Sea, which has capacity for 13GW. To date, 13 windfarm projects are under consideration in there that could generate 25 percent of Poland’s energy by offshore wind by 2040. The plan currently being debated is for 4.6GW to be installed by 2030, scaling up to six GW by 2035 and 10GW by 2040.  

Rados?aw Pachecki, Maritime Logistics Project Manager with PGE’s offshore company PGE Baltica, said the company is looking to build three windfarms with an option to develop more of the 13 concession sites together with other energy companies. He reported new positive findings from a 20-month feasibility study PGE has undertaken into the Baltic Sea’s suitability for offshore wind. The report, which is still ongoing, has found favorable wind speeds, relatively shallow sea depths and calmer sea conditions than the North Sea. PGE now has confidence that the business case for building windfarms is “cost optimized” with overheads dramatically reduced due to better technology and know-how.

Work on PGE’s windfarms, which will generate 2.5GW of power combined, is due to start in 2022 and be installed by 2035. The proposed windfarms are situated 20 kilometers from the Polish coastline and are expected to create maintenance work for 18 years with the first electricity coming online in 2025-2026.

The conference also heard that Europe’s energy demands are set to soar. Iain Shepherd from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries reported that by 2050 Europe will require twice as much electricity with 80-85 percent coming from renewable sources. By 2030, four times as much energy is expected to be generated by offshore wind. This “enormous change” will drive massive opportunity for supply chain businesses across Europe for steel manufacturing, cables and components.

Adam Meller, Port of Gdynia Authority Managing Board President, laid out the biggest infrastructure program ever seen at the port, with environmental considerations and green energy at their heart. The plans include an investment in dredging the port so it can accommodate larger vessels as well as reconstructing 1,501 meters of wharfs. But he cautioned that as a city-center-based port, air quality was paramount, and the port would adhere to all emissions restrictions, meaning visiting vessels must meet “the lowest possible levels of emissions.” He further announced a complete replacement of the railway system at the port with renewable alternatives being examined such as hydrogen powered trains. 

Wojciech Szczurek, Mayor of Gdynia, said the forum sent the most powerful messages in its 19-year history that Poland is about to enter a new era of huge investment and opportunity in its maritime and offshore industry.

“The Baltic windfarm project provides massive opportunities for the Polish maritime engineering sector, the ports industry and the sector globally,” he said. “It is fantastic to see our maritime industry join forces with the energy sector to put the infrastructure in place to build these huge windfarms. And we want to ensure work can start as soon as possible. Poland’s current energy demand is 41GW and growing. But with the coal power stations coming to the end of their life we know by 2035 it will be necessary to close down 20GW of aging coal power stations in Poland.  As a result, there is a massive responsibility to make the Baltic windfarm happen.”

To help support the Baltic windfarm project two of the prime organisations leading Poland’s offshore sector signed an agreement at the event. The Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society and the Polish Maritime Technology Forum partnership agreed a deal to encourage knowledge exchange and cooperation between a wide range of businesses and stakeholders in the offshore and maritime sector.

Conference chairman Slawomir Kalicki said that the Polish maritime industry has a very bright future. “The industry now employs more than 112,000 people and generates more than nine billion Euros ($10 billion) for the economy. This year we have seen new figures released showing Poland’s three major ports Gdansk, Gdynia, Szczecin broke all records in 2018 by handling more than 100 million tonnes of cargo for the first time, a 16 percent increase on 2017. 

“Moreover, we are seeing a renaissance in our shipyard sector with more than 34,000 people employed in the industry, the highest level since 2002. Poland’s ‘blue economy’ is being driven by the strong performance of the Polish economy that has grown at an average rate of 4.2 percent a year between 1992-2019, to become the seventh largest economy in the E.U. with a total GDP of 524 billion Euros ($584 billion). This growth is supported by infrastructure investments, including 208 billion Euros ($232 billion) in E.U. funding between 2007 and 2020, across the Polish hinterland. As a result, Poland is becoming a more efficient, competitive maritime nation where our ports and shipyards are some of the most important on the Baltic Sea.”

The Maritime Economy Forum Gdynia featured almost 40 speakers and attracted more than 600 senior figures from the maritime sector. It was organized by the city of Gdynia and the Gdynia Development Agency. The event was held at the conference center at the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park Gdynia under the patronage of the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, the Maritime Office, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency and the Polish Chamber of Commerce as well as other non-government organizations. The Port of Gdynia was a strategic partner for the event.