One of the many negative impacts of climate change is the loss of biodiversity, the vast array of animals, plants and microorganisms which, through their interactions, create an equilibrium that’s essential for life on Earth. This loss has dire consequences: many authoritative studies now agree that reduced biodiversity leads to increased food and energy insecurity, as well as greater susceptibility to natural disasters and, more generally, a decrease in the level of well-being for society as a whole.
The European Union is well aware of the problem, so much so that it has recently put in place a new plan to restore biodiversity by 2030, with actions and strategies aimed at regenerating degraded ecosystems and facilitating sustainability. However, to achieve such an objective, just as in the fight against global warming, it’s vital that everyone makes a contribution. Enel Green Power has never shied away in this regard, and in recent months we’ve strengthened our commitment even further by initiating a number of new experimental projects aimed at protecting and enhancing biodiversity, including through the use of innovative technologies. Here we’d like to share a few of them with you.
Protecting bats, butterflies and birds, from South Africa to the USA
The first of these new initiatives was launched last January at the Gibson Bay wind farm in South Africa, with the installation of three special acoustic deterrent devices (made by the US company NRG Systems): the aim is to create a “barrier effect” that stops bats from approaching the wind turbines, thus preventing accidental impacts which could prove fatal.
At our solar power facility in Pezouliotika, Greece, we’re looking to restore biodiversity in a number of the site’s unused areas. In this case, the action plan, which was developed in collaboration with the Italian non-profit organization Eliante, provides for the planting of tree species that are typical of the surrounding ecosystems, with the aim of improving the food supplies and reproductive habitat for a number of specific butterfly species – such as, for example, the Iolana Iolas and the Charaxes Jasius, the latter of which is currently under particular threat from climate change – as well as supporting the ecosystem services that are necessary for the local economy in which several farms and small agricultural companies operate. To this end, we’re experimenting with the BACI (Before-After-Control-Impact) protocol, a cutting-edge approach that aims to develop a “tailor-made” plan for each area in question, each dedicated to a particular species.
The third project concerns the solar power facility at Totana, in Spain, a site frequented by steppe birds such as the Eurasian stone-curlew. The tests we’re carrying out here are aimed at protecting and improving the birds’ habitat by sowing special leguminous plants that facilitate soil oxygenation, thus eradicating undesirable grasses and weeds, which in turn facilitates nesting.
The final project, and perhaps the most ambitious, is being conducted in partnership with the US research center, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) – with whom we’re already collaborating on the inSPIRE project at the Aurora solar park, dedicated to researching habitats favorable to insects and pollinators – and is aimed at investigating the impact of floating solar facilities on aquatic environments. Specifically, the project includes in-depth monitoring of four floating facilities in the United States with widely varying percentages of water surface coverage (ranging from 3% to 70%).
“For each of these projects we have implemented meticulous monitoring systems that enable us to determine the impact of these technologies on the different habitats – aquatic, terrestrial and aerial – and to evaluate their effectiveness”, explained Miriam Di Blasi, Head of Environment and Impacts Mitigation Innovation at Enel Green Power. “The projects in South Africa, Greece and Spain will come to a conclusion next year, while the project with NREL will last three years or so.”
Romanian orchids and the Pyrenean brown bear
At Enel Green Power, we are constantly working to ensure a profound and respectful interaction between our facilities and their surrounding environment. In 2020 alone, our Group launched 219 projects in the power generation context, at sites already in operation as well as at others under construction. Indeed, we have always been mindful of the responsible management of natural resources throughout the entire lifecycle of our facilities around the world, from design to construction, from commissioning to decommissioning. “This is an ongoing commitment that will continue throughout 2021 and in the coming years, which will also see increasingly greater integration with the renewable energy development plan”, explained Claudia Chiulli, Head of Environment in EGP’s HSEQ department.
For example, among our many ongoing initiatives, an activity that we’re particularly proud to mention concerns the Moldova Nouă wind farm in Romania, whose surrounding area is a natural habitat for a number of rare species of orchids: through a targeted maintenance strategy, the wind farm has played a key role in the conservation of these species, a point that was also highlighted by a scientific study conducted by biologists from the Bucharest Botanical Garden.
Another important project is aimed at protecting the brown bear in Spain, one of the countries in which it is listed as a protected species. For this project, we have planted more than 9,000 fruit trees since 2018 in the areas surrounding some of our hydropower plants in the Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees, the animal’s main habitats, guaranteeing the bears a continuous and plentiful food supply and thus enabling them to thrive for many years to come.
Looking for new challenges and partnerships
But our mission to safeguard biological diversity doesn’t end there. In the spirit of Open Innovability®, on May 22, 2021, World Biodiversity Day, we launched a new challenge to select a number of worthy projects and initiate new partnerships for the protection of biodiversity.
“The objective is to stimulate the generation of innovative technological and management solutions in this area, in the context of the entire renewable energy landscape – so, with a focus on wind, solar, hydro and geothermal power. The fact that we place no particular constraints on participants is commensurate with the need to be as open as possible to any bright ideas that might emanate from any sector in the outside world”, specified Miriam Di Blasi.
May 30, 2023
November 14, 2022