Poland aspires to become one of the biggest centres in Europe for offshore wind, turbo-charging billions of Euros of investment, a recent thought leadership event has heard.

The Maritime Economy Forum Gdynia was told that the investment will create a ‘boom’ in the offshore wind sector generating an estimated 77,000 jobs and 14.1billion Euros for the economy by 2030. Poland’s biggest energy company PGE presented forecasts to 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. In total 13 windfarm projects are under consideration in Poland’s Baltic Sea territory with an ambition to generate 25% 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 6GW by 2035 and 10GW by 2040.

Radosław 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. He said the report, which is still ongoing, has found favourable wind speeds, relatively low sea depths and calmer sea conditions than the North Sea. He said PGE now has confidence that the business case for building windfarms is ‘cost optimised’ with overheads dramatically reduced due to better technology and know-how.

Work on PGE’s windfarms, which will generate 2.5 gigawatts of power combined, is due to start in 2022 and be installed by 2035. The proposed windfarms are situated 20 kilometres 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 by 2050 Europe will require twice as much electricity with 80-85% coming from renewable sources while by 2030 four times as much energy is expected to be generated by offshore. He said this ‘enormous change’ will drive massive opportunity for supply chain businesses across Europe for steel manufacturing, cables and components.

Adam Meller, meanwhile, the Port of Gdynia Authority managing board President laid out the biggest infrastructure programme ever seen at the port, with environmental considerations and green energy at their heart. He said the plans include an investment in dredging the port so it can accommodate larger vessels as well as reconstructing 1501 metres of wharfs. But he cautioned that as a city centre 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. Mr Meller confirmed that work on the Port’s new 67million Euro passenger ferry terminal, which is the part of the motorway connecting Sweden and Poland - has now officially started and will massively improve passenger efficiency.

Wojciech Szczurek the 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.

To help support the Baltic windfarm project two of the prime organisations leading Poland’s offshore sector signed an agreement at the MEFG. 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.

By Jake Frith