What`s next with the Wind Farm Investment Act and the 10H rule?

by Grzegorz Piórczyński


Even if a given issue is not in the circle of interest of a wider group of people, it happens that there is an aspect of a subject which is so important that even people who do not deal with it on a daily basis know about it. In the case of the renewable energy sources industry (RES) and wind farms in Poland, such an aspect is the ’10H rule’. This rule concerns the minimum distance of residential buildings from a wind turbine, which cannot be less than ten times the height of the turbine at the maximum blade height. We are talking about distances of 1500 – 2000 m, which according to Instrat Policy Note 01/2021 “Wind in the sails. The 10H rule and the potential of onshore wind energy in Poland” (report in Polish) excluded 99.7 percent of Poland’s area from wind investments. As it is not difficult to guess, in practice this has completely inhibited the development of the entire sector. From the very beginning, i.e. 2016, the industry called for the relaxation of these restrictions so as to reconcile the interests of the neighbours of the investment as well as the investors and the whole society benefiting from RES.

The need for change is obvious to everyone, especially when it is not just about money, but about the environment and climate in general, i.e. all of us. Work on these changes is in progress (it is worth noting that with the participation of a friendly law firm DWF). The amendment to the “distance” law was discussed by the Director of the Department of Low-Emission Economy, Ministry of Development and Technology during the panel “The future of onshore wind in Poland” at the Polish Wind Energy Association conference in Serock in August. The main assumptions of the new act are to maintain the principle of locating a new wind power plant only on the basis of a LSDP. The general distance principle of 10H is to be retained, but with the possibility for municipalities willing to build new investments in their area to designate areas in local plans for the construction of wind turbines at a shorter distance from residential buildings. In such circumstances the new “two-way” minimum absolute distance of the power plant from residential buildings will be 500 m. This distance will no longer apply to determine the minimum distance of the wind power plant from forms of nature conservation (environmental regulations will apply). It will be obligatory to consult a nearby municipality (whose area is located at a distance of less than 10H) on the draft LSDP for a wind power plant. A neighbouring municipality will be obliged to develop a LSDP for its land within the power plant’s range of influence. There is also a proposal to enable municipalities to locate RES investments in production, storage and warehousing areas, as well as in mining areas, provided that LSDP specifies the maximum height of the buildings and the minimum distance of 500 m.

When will the changes come into force? The director at the conference was not able to give specific dates. According to information obtained by Business Insider from the press service of the Ministry of Development and Technology (article in Polish), “the expected date of adoption of the bill by the Council of Ministers is the turn of the third and fourth quarter of 2021. The assumed date of entry into force of the provisions of the law is the beginning of 2022”. Time is running out, going back to the Instrat report, “the lack of change poses a threat to Poland’s ability to meet its binding 2030 climate targets. These targets call for a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union relative to 1990. As pointed out in the Instrat Foundation’s “Road to the Goal” report (report in Polish), this requires a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions in the electricity sector. To make this possible, installed wind power capacity should exceed 18 GW by 2030″. In addition, experts point out that the time necessary to launch new farms in the case of suspended projects is 3 years, and 6 years for new ones. We keep our fingers crossed for the quickest possible solution of the problem, and we encourage all interested persons to read the aforementioned publications.