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Environmental permit for a photovoltaic farm


by Paweł Foltman and Piotr Gajewski

19 February 2021

Among renewable energy sources photovoltaic energy has the strongest development potential in Poland. More and more businesses interested in eco-friendly solutions decide to build photovoltaic farms. Lower emissions from such farms do not mean that they alter the landscape any less. That is why an environmental permit (decyzja środowiskowa) may be required.

PV farm construction process – stages

The PV farm construction process can be divided into three stages:


  1. Obtaining a decision on environmental conditions of the project (“environmental permit”).
  2. Determination if the project complies with the local spatial development plan or obtaining a zoning decision.
  3. Obtaining the building permit.

The stages should be completed in that order. Stage two depends on the environmental permit. And there will be no building permit until stage two is completed.

When does a PV farm construction require an environmental permit?

The environmental permit includes a comprehensive analysis of the planned photovoltaic farm’s impact on the environment and sets the conditions which the investor should meet when it comes to environmental protection.


This article is about industrial photovoltaic farms. Given that in the current state of the art a PV farm rated at 1 MW covers about 1.6 ha, an environmental permit is basically an essential stage to build an industrial photovoltaic farm with the area exceeding 1 ha.



It is the investor who has to indicate the project area correctly.

Project characteristics – good practices

It may take up to a few years between the application for an environmental permit and the issue of a building permit. As the technology is changing rapidly, it is good to avoid describing the technical parameters in too much detail. Instead of indicating the exact number of panels it is better to specify the maximum power or maximum number of panels. For example:


  • power not exceeding 1 MW / maximum power up to 1 MW;
  • up to 4000 panels with power not exceeding 300 W each.

If you describe the technical parameters in too much detail and they change, you may need to apply for an amended environmental permit and this will protract the whole project.

Project Information Sheet

The decision is issued on the basis of an exhaustive Project Information Sheet (Karta Informacyjna Przedsięwzięcia). With a well-prepared Sheet you will avoid the environmental impact assessment and significantly streamline the whole process. Just have a look and compare the scope of the Project Information Sheet (Article 62a of the Environmental Protection Act) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (Article 66 of that act).


Please note that it is illegal to divide a project into smaller projects (salami slicing).



Technologically linked projects are classified as one project even if they are carried out by different entities – this means that all activities leading to the construction of a PV farm are treated as one project because the ultimate goal is to build a whole, seamless infrastructure serving the same business purpose. This approach is designed to prevent “salami slicing”, that is, artificial division of a project into numerous small-scale construction undertakings in order to avoid the environmental impact assessment process.

For instance, if you have a real property with the area of 3 ha and split the project into 6 “independent” projects of 0.5 ha each, every authority will see it as an attempt at avoiding the environmental impact assessment. The whole project described above will be treated as one undertaking.

Who issues the environmental permit and how?

The environmental permit is issued by:

  • head of municipality or
  • the city mayor

in the location of the photovoltaic farm.

If a project is located on an area falling under the jurisdiction of two authorities, the permit should be issued by the authority competent for the larger part of the project area, in consultation with the authorities competent for the remaining area.

The procedure starts at the request of the investor. The application should be accompanied by:


  • the Project Information Sheet authenticated by the competent authority;
  • a copy of the survey map;
  • an extract from the land register or another document containing all details listed in the statute.

Environmental impact assessment

In the course of the procedure, the authority competent for issuing the environmental permit may conclude that an environmental impact assessment is necessary. Then, the applicant must submit a report covering the scope determined by the authority taking into consideration the state of the art, the study methods and the available technical conditions.

Before issuing the permit the authority will consult the regional environmental protection director and the Municipal State Sanitary Inspectorate on the conditions of the project implementation. The approval is granted within 30 days after the approving authority receives the application documents from the applying authority.

Environmental permit and statement of reasons

The environmental permit is issued by the authority which handles the procedure. The law does not stipulate explicitly when.


The issuing authority must present the statement of reasons behind its decision. The wording of the statement depends on whether the environmental impact assessment was necessary. Here is the overview of the potential outcome:


Refusal to issue an environmental permit

The authority may refuse to issue an environmental permit in three situations:


  1. if the location of a PV farms does not comply with the local spatial development plan;
  2. if a consultation authority refuses to approve the terms and conditions of the PV farm project;
  3. if the applicant does not agree to implement the project in a different way described in the environmental impact assessment report and does not consent to including the option approved for implementation in the environmental permit.

Transfer and validity of the permit

If you buy a ready-to-build project for which an environmental permit has been issued, you need to have that permit transferred to you before you start the next project stage.

As a general rule, an environmental permit is valid for 6 years after it becomes final. If you want to apply for a building permit after that period, you need to obtain a new environmental permit.


Officially, the environmental permit procedure should not take more than about 3 months. In practice, it may take several more months. If other stakeholders complain about your permit and the case is appealed against and taken to administrative court, you may expect project delays lasting years.


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Paweł Foltman

Attorney at law (Poland)

+48 696 139 865

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