The year 2016 caused turmoil in the renewable energy market with the adoption of the Law of May 20, 2016 on wind power investments (Journal of Laws 2016, item 961, i.e. Journal of Laws 2021, item 724), known as Law 10H or the Distance Law. Its purpose was to regulate issues related to the preparation and implementation of investments in onshore wind energy.
Unfortunately, it effectively limited the potential for wind development in Poland by specifying the minimum distance at which projects can be located and built:
- wind power plant – from a residential building or a building with a mixed function, which includes a residential function,
- wind power plant – from forms of nature protection, i.e. national parks, nature reserves, landscape parks and Natura 2000 areas, as well as forest promotional complexes.
This distance was defined as equal to or greater than 10 times the height of the wind power plant measured from ground level to the highest point of the structure, which is the maximum point of elevation of the rotor. It was called the 10H rule, according to which the prevailing area of Poland was excluded from the possibility of locating wind power plants.
Speculation about amending the Distance Law has been ongoing since it came into force. On June 14, 2022, a bill was drafted to amend the Law on Investment in Wind Power Plants and Certain Other Laws, which was approved by the Council of Ministers’ Standing Committee and sent to the Sejm. The amendment to the law is intended to restore the possibility of onshore wind energy development, by amending the current and introducing new regulations governing the existing rules.
Below are the main assumptions of the draft amendment to the Distance Law:
- The location of a wind power plant, consisting of the building part and the technical elements, i.e. the rotor with blade assembly, power transmission assembly, generator, control system and nacelle assembly with mounting and rotation mechanism, invariably takes place exclusively on the basis of a local spatial development plan (PL: MPZP), which also specifies the maximum total height of the wind power plant, the maximum diameter of the rotor with blades and the maximum number of wind power plants.
- The MPZP under which the wind power plant is to be located is drawn up for the area of the municipality where it is planned, at a distance of at least 10H. In the event that the distance of a wind power plant from a residential building or a building with a mixed function that includes a residential function is less than 10H and extends into the territory of a nearby municipality, that municipality shall also adopt an MPZP (for the area within its territory) that is at least within that distance. The exception to this is when there is already an MPZP in this area of the nearby municipality, which prevents development with residential buildings or buildings with a mixed function that includes a residential function. On the other hand, when the range of influence of the aforementioned power plant includes the territory of a neighboring municipality, it too shall draw up an MPZP, in the area covered by this range.
- The distance is determined based on the conclusions, if any, of the mandatory strategic environmental impact assessment for the draft MPZP and public consultations, and it cannot be less than 500 m.
- The distance specified in the MPZP for the location, construction or reconstruction of a wind power plant from a residential building or a building with a mixed function that includes a residential function is indicated in Article 5 of the draft amendment to the Distance Law.
- Rules and methods for consulting with the local community on locating wind power projects have been established, by specifying provisions for public discussions and applicable deadlines within the MPZP procedure, as indicated in Article 6a-g of the draft amendment to the Distance Law.
- A ban has been introduced on locating wind turbines on the territory of forms of nature protection (national parks, nature reserves, landscape parks and Natura 2000 areas). The 10H rule for locating wind power plants only from national parks was upheld, and this distance was changed to no less than 500 m for nature reserves.
- Rules for the safe operation of technical elements of a wind power plant have been introduced, regulating the responsibilities of the operator of the investment, ensuring safe operation, to be carried out by a certified service provider. The draft amendment to the law describes in detail the guidelines for servicing operators, providing for, among other things, certification for a period of 5 years, verification of competence, personnel and authorization to perform servicing activities.
- The rules and manner of imposing fines on the wind power plant operator have been established, in case of failure to comply with the obligation to subject technical components of the wind power plant to maintenance activities and inspections, carried out in accordance with the recommendations and frequency, as specified in the technical and operating documentation and instructions for operation of the wind power plant.