Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Historic Polish shipyard set to ‘go green’

  • Tuesday, July 26, 2011
  • Aruntha Kanagaratnam
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  • Poland: The Gdansk Shipyard, where the Solidarity movement that ended the communist era in Poland was born, is now trying to lead another Polish revolution ... in offshore wind power.

    The European Union has laid out clean energy targets to be reached by its 27-members by 2020. To hit those marks Poland must break its coal addiction, which currently provides some 90 percent of the country’s electrical power.

    Environmental groups, energy experts and some politicians increasingly point to offshore wind farms as a viable alternative to coal, adding that it could have more economic upside than a planned investment in nuclear power.

    Germany, the continent’s largest economy, is looking to buy more clean energy, and with little space left to generate added wind power domestically, some in Poland believe they can capitalise on that opportunity as well.

    “Germany closing down their nuclear facilities by 2022 will generate a big take-off for offshore wind energy,” said Thomas Gaardbo, vice president of GSG Towers, an offshoot of the Gdansk Shipyard that is driving the wind power initiative.

    Germany’s onshore wind market is saturated, Gaardbo argued, adding that he thinks “the only real development that can happen” there is in offshore.

    “We’re trying to position ourselves for that offshore market,” he said.

    The GSG company, co-owned by Ukrainian investors and the Polish state, plans to build 60 wind towers this year and 300 by by 2014.

    Conditions at Gdansk have changed since 1980, when anti-communist crusader Lech Walesa led a strike over price increases and job losses that culminated in the creation of Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the then-Soviet bloc.

    With those days of unrest and heady protest behind it, many believe Gdansk is well-placed to cash in on wind power, given its easy access to shipping routes through the Baltic Sea port.

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