Statoil has set the seal on an breakthrough agreement with Polish developer Polenergia to take a 50% stake in a pair of early-stage offshore wind projects in the Baltic Sea.

Under a joint venture deal, the Norwegian energy giant will handle the development, construction and operational phrases of Bałtyk Środkowy II and Bałtyk Środkowy III (aka Baltic Middle 2 and 3), which together have a planned capacity of 1.2GW, enough to power more than two million Polish households.

"We are very pleased to have entered into a partnership with Polenergia, which is an experienced energy company with a growing renewable portfolio and in-depth knowledge of the Polish electricity market," says Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president of Statoil’s New Energy Solutions division.

“Statoil has an ambition to grow significantly within renewable energy investing up to €10bn ($12.3bn) in profitable renewable energy towards 2030, and this acquisition strengthens our presence in the Baltic Sea area giving opportunities for scale and synergies in a longer perspective.”

Without a support system exclusively for offshore wind, a lack of clarity when at least technology-neutral tenders including offshore could take place, as well as an at times open hostility by the government against other renewables such as onshore wind, projects for wind at sea in recent years only advanced slowly in Poland.

But that may change since a parliamentary group for offshore wind development has taken up work in November that has since worked out an action plan for the development of the technology in the country. The sector now hopes this will lead to an amendment in Poland's Renewable Energies Act that would allow for first auctions to take place in late 2019.

The Bałtyk Środkowy II and III projects - for which Polenergia didn't take final investment decision (FID) yet - are located in water depths of 20-40 metres, some 27 and 40 kilometre from the port of Łeba. Statoil is already in the process of developing the Arkona offshore wind project in the German Baltic with E.ON, as well as having three operational wind farms off the UK, Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon and Hywind Scotland.

"We are entering a market with growth potential through two of the most advanced offshore wind developments in Poland. The country is well-placed to develop a strong offshore wind industry that would create jobs and value in one of the most dynamic parts of the European markets,” says Rummelhoff.

“Following a dramatic reduction in cost for offshore wind, we are looking forward to work with our new partner, the Polish authorities and the Polish supply chain to advance offshore wind as a competitive source of energy and industry.”

The Polish Baltic is estimated by the Warsaw-based Foundation for Sustainable Energy (FNEZ) to have wind power potential in excess of 8GW, with the first 4GW potentially operational by 2030, which would be a sizeable addition to Europe’s current 15GW-plus of installed capacity.

Finalisation of the transaction with Polenergia is subject to consent of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection in Poland.

Gunnar Groebler, offshore wind head for Swedish energy group Vattenfall – among the leading pack of European developers – confirmed that it is “monitoring very closely” the development of the Polish sector.

“It’s great to see that others are sharing our view of Poland being a promising market for offshore wind,” Groebler told Recharge.

“We’re impressed by the focus we’ve seen in Poland, and that could very well be an interesting market for us going forward.”

Note: Update adds Vattenfall comments