Hitting the jackpot with wind energy in Poland

“We feel like we’ve won the lottery.”

Mirosława and Mieczysław Horodiuk sit on a couch in their living room, their aged cat stares through the window. Here in Kończewo in north western Poland a late spring snow has fallen, delaying the spring planting for this farming family. They rest easy knowing that summer will come and they now have a guaranteed income.

10 years ago a wind energy developer approached the Horodiuk family to rent part of their farmland for a wind turbine. They were sceptical about this opportunity. It would have been difficult for them to agree if they were on their own, but they had support.

The citizens of Kobylnica had been prepared for such an event. Leszek Kuliński, mayor of Kobylnica, became interested in wind turbines while on holiday in Denmark. (His wife complained that 80% of the photographs he took were of wind turbines.) Leszek wanted to bring this industry to Kobylnica. He travelled to Germany to research and to investigate if it was safe for the community. He returned determined to make his commune attractive to wind energy developers.

His efforts have made Kobylnica the best rural commune in the country for renewable energy projects, according to Newsweek Poland[1].

It was difficult to get the people onside. Kobylnica was the first commune in Poland to take steps to build community support for wind energy from the ground up. The mayor and his team had to develop their own processes to raise awareness. Many consultations were held and input from the residents was taken into consideration. It worked. When the wind developers came calling; the Horodiuks were ready and willing to work with them.

And it’s not only farmers who lease their land who’ve hit the jackpot – the whole town benefits too. The taxes from the wind energy installations make up over 10% of the community’s annual budget. It is estimated that by 2016 it will be 20%. Kobylnica has been ranked as Poland’s best commune to live (2009) and the best commune for renewable energy (2009, 2010). The taxes are helping to transform the community and Leszek now has his eyes set on solar energy.

The partnership between commune and developers has other dividends. Tundra, the developers of the wind turbines on the Horodiuks’ land, had to build new roads for transportation. They replaced roads that were by all accounts terrible. They also sponsor the sports teams in Kobylnica and funded the reconstruction of the local church shrine in Lulemino.

For Mirosława and Mieczysław, as landowners, the community support and knowledge was invaluable. It helped them navigate the legal documents and they could seek advice if they needed it. Their story is just one among many in Kolbynica. There are many people here that have ‘won the lottery’.

The two turbines on the Horodiuks’ land work peacefully with the agriculture below and Mirosława enjoys having them there.  The quarterly payment for the leasing of their land is one reason, but he also likes the notion that they are helping build a sustainable future.

In Kobylnica, renewable energy is taking the commune forward and in the words of Leszek, “we have to go forward, we are number one, but we have to keep that status.”

This blog post is part 12 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden.

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