Hitting the Jackpot with Wind Energy in Poland

(l-r) Mieczys?aw and Miros?awa Horodiuk  in their home in the Polish commune of Kobylnica. (Robert van Waarden)

“We feel like we’ve won the lottery.”

Miroslawa and Mieczyslaw Horodiuk sit on a couch in their living room, their aged cat stares through the window. Here in Konczewo 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 Horodiuks to lease 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.

Leszek Kuli?ski, mayor of Kobylnica, Poland. (Robert van Waarden)

Leszek Kulinski, mayor of Kobylnica, Poland.

The citizens of Kobylnica had been prepared for such an event. Leszek Kulinski, 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.

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.

A snow covered field seen from a wind turbine in Kobylnica, Poland. (Robert van Waarden)

A snow covered field seen from a wind turbine in Kobylnica, Poland. 

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.

Firewood is piled outside a shed on Miros?awa Horodiuk's farm. (Robert van Waarden)

Firewood is piled outside a shed on Miroslawa Horodiuk’s farm. 

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 Miroslawa and Mieczyslaw, 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 Horodiuk’s land work peacefully with the agriculture below and Miroslawa 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.”

Miros?awa Horodiuk rests against a wind turbine on his farm. (Robert van Waarden)

Miroslawa Horodiuk rests against a wind turbine on his farm. 

Along the Pipeline | Energy East Pipeline Photography

Energy East - Hardisty Tank Terminal

The Hardisty Tank Terminal, beginning of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

My latest photography project, Along the Pipeline, is underway. I am currently in Regina and I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks. My journey has taken me from Hardisty in Alberta and will continue to the East Coast of Canada. I have been photographing the individuals and the route of the proposed Energy East pipeline to find out what it means to Canadians and First Nations. It has been a great experience. I have met ranchers, farmers, oil workers, and foreign workers.

Energy East Photography

Photo session at the Gould Ranch in Alberta.


The project focuses on a series of large format portraits created on a 4×5 film camera. Each image will eventually be combined with a quote or little anecdote from that individual explaining their position on the pipeline and the future of Canada.

I hope that the photographs will create a journal and record of some of the people along the route and how they will be affected. You can follow all of the updates and the journey at my sister website, AlongthePipeline.com. From here I will keep moving east.

 Energy East Photography

Pat Wheeler, Hardisty, Alberta

Along the Pipeline featured on DeSmogBlog

My upcoming project Along the Pipeline has just been featured on the popular Desmogblog. Check it out. 

I will be following the line of the proposed Energy East pipeline in Canada to take portraits and tell the stories of those along the route. TransCanada, the same company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, is proposing another pipeline but this time across Canada. If approved, Energy East would transport 1.1 million barrels of diluted bitumen a day from the oil sands of Alberta to St. John. It would cross hundreds of waterways and drinking water supplies and would be responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that would equal 7 million new cars on the road.

This photography project gives me a chance to contribute to a larger conversation in Canada about climate change, oil and the future of this land. I am currently in the throes of a crowd funder for this project so please visit and support. 


Corsica | Hiking the Mare a Mare Nord

I was going through the photography archive the last few days picking out images to send to my image partner Aurora Photos. I came across these images from a wonderful hiking trip to Corsica from a couple of years ago.

We were eager to not fly and put more carbon than necessary into the atmosphere so we caught the train from Amsterdam to Nice, the overnight ferry to Bastia and then the amazing little train to Corte. From Corte we joined the Mare a Mare Nord. The trail was surprisingly difficult, it goes over many different mountain ranges and in November is incredibly empty. It rained, snowed, blew and shone and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Corsica immediately.

Photographs below.

Amsterdam Travel Photography – Garuda Airlines Magazine

I recently had the pleasure of contributing to an article on Amsterdam for the May edition of Garuda Airlines Colours magazine. It was great to photograph the city that I have been living in for the last couple of years from my perspective for this magazine. In the gallery below are some of the images that were published.

National Geographic Netherlands/Belgie – Verdwaald in de Algarve

This month, the National Geographic Netherlands/Belgie Netherlands edition has an article on the Algarve region in Portugal that I photographed. If you are in the Netherlands or Belgium, I invite you to go and pick up a copy from a shop and check out my take on the Algarve.

Award: Ireland Tourism Bureau for Photography and Article on Belfast

Today Elegance magazine and I were awarded the Titanic Prize for the best Titanic Article from the Tourism Bureau of Ireland. Jolanda van der Ploeg, writer and chief editor of Elegance Magazine, and I spent a few days in Belfast last year working on this article. It was noted that the writing and the photography did a great job of describing the city, inviting visitors and noting the history of the Titanic and the shipbuilding yards of Belfast. (100 years ago the Titanic was built in Belfast).

We are very happy that our hard work went noticed and I am especially pleased that my travel photography drew the attention of the jury and helped make this award possible. Tear sheets from the gallery are included below.

Tear Sheets – Elegance – Images by Robert van Waarden

TIME Magazine – Reasons to Visit Eastern Bali

It is always a nice surprise to come across one of my images in a publication like TIME. In this case, the image is of a friend of mine, Rob, swimming in the shadow of Gunung Agung on the Eastern coast of Bali. I remember that the next morning we awoke at 2am to climb Gunung Agung, hoping to catch the sunrise from the top, but instead got soaked to the skin from walking in the clouds.

This image was licensed through my stock image partner Aurora photos, thanks to Arlene for bringing it to my attention.