Polish PV module market worth €120 million in 2011

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Last year, some 248,000 square meters of photovoltaic modules were purchased and installed in Poland, up 70 percent from 146,000 square meters in 2010, the IEO said.

Poland’s total area of installed photovoltaic modules is currently about 904,000 square meters. This represents a cumulative capacity of about 633 megawatts (MW), according to data from the research institute. "Presently, about 70 manufacturers and distributors of photovoltaic panels are active in the Polish solar energy market," the IEO said in a statement.

Preceded only by wind power, solar power is currently the second largest renewable energy source in Poland, the statement said.

PV potential

According to the country’s solar industry players, the Polish photovoltaics market is very definitely heating up. "Given the current installed solar capacity, the Polish PV industry is only beginning to develop," Henryk Klein, vice president of local module business Opa-Labor, told pv magazine. "[Currently] Polish module manufacturers sell most of their output in foreign markets. However, things seem to be speeding up in the Polish solar industry, and the market has great potential."

According to Klein, over a dozen solar projects, all at different stages of completion, are currently under construction in Poland. One of the country’s biggest systems is set to be located in the southern region of Ma?opolska. By 2014, four local municipalities are expected to install a total of 4,000 rooftop photovoltaic modules over a total area of 18,000 square meters.

Under the plan, some 3,000 units will be installed in Niepo?omice and Wieliczka, and a further 1,000 in Skawina and Klaj. Overall, the project is expected to cost around 70 million zloty (€16.8 million) – approximately 60 percent of the investment will be financed by the Swiss-Polish Cooperation Programme, a Swiss-funded aid program for new member states of the European Union.

While the size of the project has not been disclosed, the permits have been secured and a tender for construction is expected to be announced in the second quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, investement will reportedly be secured by the end of 2014.

Polish policy

Poland’s energy policy forecasts that by 2030, the country will have a cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity of just 450.9 MW. To spur interest in the industry, the government is planning a household solar energy program. Under it, some 104.4 million zloty (€25.1 million) in grants will be provided to the households that purchase photovoltaic modules in 2012, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year.

The uptake of photovoltaics by consumers is expected to continue, as opinion polls show that the Polish society is particularly positive about PV. As a result, the Polish government plans to increase its funding for PV projects. "We have plans to set up a long-term research and development program for photovoltaics," says Polish Minister of Economy, Waldemar Pawlak. "Under the program, we will construct several pilot solar energy projects." No further details were given by the minister.

New bill

The announcement of the government’s expanded photovoltaic focus comes at the same time as Poland’s Ministry of Economy is drafting a new renewable energy bill, which could potentially transform the country’s renewable energy industry. The much-awaited bill is expected to enter into force in 2013, but it has already come under criticism from various industry players. For example, the ministry’s plan to preserve the green certificate system for renewable energy sources, instead of introducing feed-in tariffs (FIT) was slated by the country’s solar industry representatives.

"One of the biggest flaws of the government’s plans is the state’s unwillingness to guarantee any level of feed-in tariffs for solar projects," commented Klein, whose company is also a member of the Polish Association of Renewable Energy Employers, an umbrella organization grouping a number of renewable energy companies active in the Polish market. "On the brighter side, the … bill has two positive elements: it facilitates administrative procedures related to the construction of smaller photovoltaic facilities; and enables the state to provide co-financing to solar investments for up to 15 years, which is essential for any major project."

In an open letter to the Ministry of Economy, Polish solar industry representatives stated, "The Polish photovoltaics industry cannot accept the vision of the development of photovoltaics in Poland as presented in the project of the Polish energy policy until 2030." If a FIT system is not introduced soon, Poland’s solar energy industry will lag behind the rest of Europe, according to the letter’s signatories. "We should compare ourselves with other countries in the region, such as the Czech Republic or Slovakia, where several megawatts of new solar capacity are installed each month," Klein said.