Small wind turbines—a glimmer of hope for Poland's wind energy sector?

December 23, 2016, Youris.com

A new Polish law imposing rules for the installation of wind turbines is likely to limit the development of renewables in the country, which continues to focus on its main energy source, coal. However, small wind turbines, which fall outside the scope of the recent measures, could represent a loophole for the wind energy sector

In 2016, the Polish parliament, where the conservative Law and Justice party has an outright majority, voted one of the most severe anti-wind bills in Europe. The new law requires companies to locate turbines at least 10 times the distance of their total height (measured from the base to the highest point of the rotor) from the nearest housing and "valuable natural areas," such as Natura 2000 and national parks.

"This rule is arbitrary and absurd," says Wojciech Cetnarski, president of the Polish Association of Wind Energy. "It has effectively hindered the development of in Poland. Meeting the EU goals has become unrealistic."

Renewable energy sources accounted for just 11.45 percent of the energy produced in Poland in 2015, while its national target is to increase this figure to 15 percent by 2020. "It is not surprising the law was informally nicknamed the anti-windmill bill. It has also meant chaos in the property tax system," Mr. Cetnarski points out, as an extra financial burden for the owners of the already existing turbines. "Nothing good comes from this regulation," he concludes.

However, the law does have a loophole. The regulation explicitly excludes "micro installations" of power under 40 kW from its scope, such as the installed on the roofs of buildings.

Since the energy sector is moving from a centralised energy system to a distributed one, small are expected to play an increasingly important role in the coming years. Their importance was recognised by the European Union, which is supporting a project aiming to develop innovative solutions to make smaller-sized wind turbines more competitive, and to facilitate their deployment into urban and peri-urban areas. The so-called SWIP project, aspires to reinvigorate the small wind turbines sector across Europe.

The innovative turbines will be tested in three demo sites, two of them in Poland (Kokoszki and Choczewo) and one in Spain (Zaragoza). While the project is at odds with the new Polish government's policies, its future is not threatened.

"The power of the most powerful wind turbine in Kokoszki is less than 20 kW," explains Andrzej Szajner from the Baltic Energy Conservation Agency, member of the consortium. As a consequence, our installations will not be affected in any way by the new regulation."

"There are other legal obstacles such as the status of installations on masts, which require planning permission, or regulations on the maximum height of roof-mounted turbines," he clarifies. There is still much room for an improved legal framework.

While both Polish demo sites are located in the windy region of Pomerania near the coast, they present two different approaches towards small wind turbines.

Kokoszki is an industrial district in the city of Gdansk, the largest Polish maritime port. Its installation, larger than the others, is connected to the grid supplying energy to the local factories. The turbine is located on a site owned by a private construction company - Przedsiebiorstwo Budowlane Kokoszki, which agreed to collaborate on this original project.

The Choczewo installation, on the other hand, is in a small village 20 km inland. It is mounted on the ground next to the Commune Office and it supplies energy to the buildings in the vicinity. While the Choczewo installation is considerably smaller (1-3 kW) than the Kokoszki one (20-30 kW), its social impact can be significant. Not only is the project supported by the local administration, but the wind turbine will be visible and the local inhabitants will be able to familiarise themselves with this technology.

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11 comments

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Eikka
4 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2016
Micro wind turbines are a ridiculously costly way to make energy. The cost of maintenance goes up 100 fold with the increased number of units, and the energy production is more sporadic and largely ineffective because the mast height puts then down low into the turbulent boundary layer.

The main political reason why Poland doesn't want wind power is because they're using their coal power to act as Germany's "virtual battery". They import and export power as the wind blows and make a lot of money out of it - buy low when Germany has excess, sell high when Germany has a deficit. Installing their own wind power would interfere with their ability to match loads.

TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Dec 31, 2016
The upside is that they can be located closer to users, there are more potential installation sites, and they are easier to fund. They can be more distributed, less centralized, easier to get approved, quicker to construct, less susceptible to sabotage.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (5) Dec 31, 2016
Eikka sees bad stuff everywhere he looks.

Yeah, small wind turbines may be not the best answer to the actions of conservative politicians, but they want some freedom to do what is best.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 31, 2016
The upside is that they can be located closer to users, there are more potential installation sites, and they are easier to fund. They can be more distributed, less centralized, easier to get approved, quicker to construct, less susceptible to sabotage.

@Otto
about that last part... they also have limited effect when sabotaged, considering the limited area of coverage

and building a redundancy into the system is cheaper so it is easier to do, making it more likely to be effective and less likely to be sabotaged with large impacts on the coverage area

Micro wind turbines are a ridiculously costly way to make energy
@Eikka
-depends-
if it's used as a secondary, tertiary or backup system to augment your already existing PV's, Hydroelectric or etc (like my system) then it's not ...

Eikka
4 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2017
-depends-


Depends on the price.

A cheap 1kW turbine from China, plus the mast, controller, batteries, wiring and installation etc. will set you back several thousand dollars and it only makes about 1-2,000 kWh a year, so at 11 cents a kWh you'll be spending 20-30 years just paying back the initial purchase - and these things aren't mechanically robust enough to survive that long.

Of course it makes "sense" though if a government happens to be forcing you to pay ridiculous prices for electricity through taxes and surcharges.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 01, 2017
Some folk like independence.

Me, too, to some extent. I just want the ability to do so, but use the benefits of the grid when I can.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 01, 2017
Depends on the price
@Eikka
also depends on if you buy new, used or scrap... you're making the assumption that all folk buy new
at 11 cents a kWh
mind tellimg me where you're getting this number from?
also note - the "making 1-2,000 kWh a year" might be subjective: some will produce more and some far less
(but i'm sure you already know that one)
and these things aren't mechanically robust enough to survive that long
again - that depends on a lot of factors

if you never maintain them, then you're absolutely correct, but regular maintenance should extend the life considerably, depending on conditions around the location, that is
Eikka
4 / 5 (2) Jan 01, 2017
you're making the assumption that all folk buy new


Well, yes. Since there aren't already millions and millions of used microturbines on the market, they pretty much have to be made and bought anew.

mind tellimg me where you're getting this number from?


Average price of electricity in the US
also note - the "making 1-2,000 kWh a year" might be subjective: some will produce more and some far less


That's pretty much the realistic range of output. It represents a Cp of 0.12 - 0.22 for the turbine which is fairly typical for small scale wind.

if you never maintain them, then you're absolutely correct, but regular maintenance should extend the life considerably


Utility scale wind turbines start to break down by year 15. Cheap chinese turbines will throw a bearing or get torn apart by a storm somewhere around year 5.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2017
http://en.openei....ems_Cost
small wind energy systems have an average cost of approximately $5,760 per kilowatt installed.

Ref: "U.S. Department of Energy. 2015 Distributed Wind Market Report"


Let's say you get an average 1,500 kWh per kW installed out of the turbine. Assume 3% per year maintenance cost for a 15 years lifespan, and the total cost will be $8352 or 37 cents a kWh.

Assuming you get the system for free and pay just the maintenance, about $173 a year, the running cost would be around 11 cents a kWh. Of course the maintenance cost may vary, but it includes things like painting the mast every few years, or if your generator burned out in a storm, or the blades got torn, etc. and you have to replace parts. You may get lucky and get away with very little, or not - it's about the average price for all users.

Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2017
http://www.windme...ines.php
Older wind turbines have an annual maintenance cost are on average 3% of the original cost of the turbine. Because newer turbines are usually quite substantially larger you get an economy of scale, lower maintenance costs per kW of rated power. This is simply because you do not need to service a large turbine any more often than a small one. Couple this with the constant development of new materials and techniques and you will make savings on the maintenance costs. For modern machines the estimated maintenance costs are in the range of 1.5% to 2% of the original investment per annum.


The cost for small wind will be closer or over 3% per annum because of the lack of economy of scale. For example, you may find yourself paying $100 just to get a guy over to check what the problem is.

For the millions of people owning the systems, you can't expect everyone to be a licensed electrician.
Captain Stumpy
Jan 02, 2017
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