Polish grid operator considers offshore interconnector

350km subsea cable to link Baltic Sea projects with neighbouring nations

Poland’s electricity network operator, PSE Operator, is studying ways to tackle the challenge of connecting offshore wind farms planned for the Polish Baltic Sea to the grid.

One option is to construct a 350km subsea cable to link Polish offshore projects and, possibly, to connect them to the networks of neighbouring countries, Windpower Offshore has learned.

Dubbed the Polish Offshore Grid (POG), the cable would run from the planned Zatoka Pomorska cluster of offshore wind farms, in the west, to the Lawica Slupska cluster, ending at Lawica Srodkowa in the northeastern part of Polish waters.

The POG concept was originally presented in 2009 by the Polish Offshore Wind Society (POWS). It has recently been revived, with POWS invited to meet with PSE in July to discuss how the two organisations might develop the idea jointly, explained POWS' vice president Mariusz Witonski.

POWS' vision for the subsea cable includes connection with the electricity networks of Poland's neighbours, added Witonski. The POG could be linked with the planned NordBalt interconnector that will run between Sweden and Lithuania, and feed into subsea cables planned for the western part of the German Baltic Sea. Another possible connection could be with SwePol2, a cable project designed to increase interconnection capacity between Poland and Sweden.

Linking the POG cable to other nations' networks would not only allow Poland to export offshore wind-generated electricity, argues POWS, but also support Poland's energy balancing – especially if the POG was eventually connected to North Sea offshore wind farms.

A more detailed plan will be completed by the end of the year, Witonski told Windpower Offshore.

Connecting Polish offshore wind projects with planned interconnectors in the Baltic Sea would solve one of PSE's biggest headaches. The operator believes that Poland's land-based electricity network can only absorb 7GW of wind-generated power. With 2.2GW of onshore capacity already online and another 23GW in receipt of grid connection contracts or promises, it is difficult to see how much offshore wind capacity would be accommodated.

Until now, PSE's plans for network expansion have focused on connecting onshore wind and nuclear capacity. But with the country's national government having begun to award development rights for offshore wind projects, PSE is under pressure to keep pace.

According to the Polish Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs (MTMA), eight licenses for the installation of "artificial islands" for offshore wind electricity generation have been awarded so far.

MTMA does not disclose the names of license winners. As Windpower Offshore has previously reported, however, three companies have announced that they have been awarded licences: PGE Energia Odnawialna (PGE EO),  PKN Orlen and Kulczyk Holding.

According to POWS, the eight licenses represent 8GW in potential offshore capacity. Demand for licenses far outstrips supply to date - an unknown number of investors are thought to be applying to build at least 40GW in capacity.

Poland's offshore wind developers are well aware that most of their projects cannot be realised without substantial grid investment. Only one of the eight licensed offshore wind developers has won a grid connection offer. Last month, Kulczyk Holding received a promise of a 1.2GW connection to shore from PSE. Kulczyk's project is to be connected at Slupsk Wierzbiecino, which means the developer must install a 40km export cable.

According to PSE, there is no further connection capacity at the three grid connection points along Poland's Baltic cost.

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