The renewable industry is helping transition our planet to a green future as practically and quickly as possible. While the positive impact of renewables is felt at a national and international level, it is also important to remember that every wind or solar farm exists in a local setting with its own delicate ecology and wildlife which must be managed appropriately.
At RES we understand the importance of balancing the drive for clean energy with protecting the ecosystem from any unintended impacts. That’s why we take the environment and wildlife into consideration at every stage of our activity.
Protecting local environments
We are passionate about the environment and wildlife protection is central to this. Through our projects and on behalf of our clients we promote biodiversity and protect and enhance habitats for a range of species. We are compliant with ISO 14001 for environmental management across parts of the organisation.
We have helped clients overcome challenging issues in this space involving bats, geese and wildflowers. We are proud to provide a snapshot of some highlights in this area from the past months.
Den Brook Wind Farm, England
The ecological monitoring scheme at Den Brook Wind Farm included provision of bat boxes to encourage roosting and an extensive monitoring campaign to assess the bat population. We worked with consultants to deliver the scheme during the wind farms operation ensuring no unnecessary downtime was needed.
The latest reporting shows that two years on since being installed, the boxes on site are now achieving very good occupancy levels and states that the bat boxes are a key reason for an increase in bat activity. The main take-home here was that the wind farm had no detrimental impact on the local bat population and some of the mitigation measures could have actually helped strengthen bat population of certain species.
Goose refuge Jacks Lane Wind Farm, UK
During development of Jacks Lane Wind Farm we worked with ornithology consultants to design a refuge area to move birds away from the wind farm. The scheme, which aimed to attract the local pinkfooted geese away from the turbines and provide a safe new habitat to enjoy, has been successful with thousands of birds flocking to the refuge. The refuge fields with their favoured feeding crops are closer to the birds’ night nest, reducing their travel time and subsequent risks. Such has been the success of the new goose refuge that so far an average of 7,200 birds have been drawn to the new area after the completion of the wind farm, compared to 1,420 prior to the refuge being established.
Supporting conservation: The jewelled lizard Lé Camazou Solar Farm, France
The Lé Camazou Solar Farm, covers an area of 20 hectares and is under close environmental monitoring. The implementation of vegetation management by sheep grazing on the site led to the natural development of grassland. These new habitats enabled the site to be recolonised by the jewelled lizard (Timon lepidus), the largest species of lizard in Europe.
As the protection of this species is subject to a national action, this repopulation represents significant conservation in the local area. In order to help maintain the local population, a network of artificial refuges were created in February 2019, which are now occupied by the lizards. We are proud that appropriate habitat management on the solar farm has enhanced the local ecology and promoted biodiversity.
Wryde Croft Wind Farm is part of a working arable farm in Cambridgeshire, with 13 turbines capable of generating enough to power more than 15,000 UK homes. Before opening in 2016, the site had experienced a 97 per cent decline in meadows and species-rich lowland grassland over the last 50 years.
Between 2014 and 2019, a consultant provided landscape and ecology advice as part of a strategic mitigation and enhancement plan. As a RES managed wind farm, we took the recommendations and set out to reintroduce indigenous wildflower meadows on seven hectares of large soil bunds left from turbine foundation excavations, and on three hectares of grassland alongside new access tracks. The aim was to provide nectar-rich meadows to benefit bees and other insects as well as seed for farmland birds.
As a result of the soil bunds being sown with a wildflower mix, a good range of flower species have been recorded – including oxeye daisy, knapweeds, wild carrot, lady’s bedstraw and meadow buttercup. The resulting meadowland has been a success both visually and in terms of biodiversity enhancement. Where a bird seed and wildflower mix was sown, there has also been an abundance of species such as tall grasses, docks and thistles – these have been left because they provide a good seed source for birds, particularly in the autumn and winter.
Surveys before and after the wind farm was built show an increase in the number of breeding birds on the site. Of 51 bird species recorded, 23 had increased by more than 10 per cent from pre-construction to post-construction – including declining species such as skylark, reed bunting and yellow wagtail.
RES played a vital asset management role at Wryde Croft. We balanced recommendations and inputs from ecologists, landowners, clients and operations teams before overseeing the implementation of a solution to maximise the benefits for all stakeholders.
ProBat introduced to increase wind productivity on French wind farm
In France there is a legal requirement to monitor rates of bats and birds within the vicinity of operating wind turbines. French wind farms are often required to follow night-time restriction plans which can significantly affect the energy production of the assets. It is therefore important for asset owners to anticipate potential production losses as early as possible and to limit the financial impact of these measures.
One of our key clients entrusted RES with the management of its wind farm operations in 2019. This wind farm, located in France in the Grand Est region, has been operational since 2017 and consists of 10 wind turbines.
Since being commissioned, the wind farm has been subject to night-time restriction as prescribed in its operating permit, in order to preserve bat populations. Since the conditions of this specific regulation are particularly restrictive – high wind speed threshold and low temperatures – significant production losses have been recorded, up to four times higher than the losses generally admissible for this kind of curtailment.
ProBat: an innovative solution
In July of this year RES provided a turnkey deployment of an innovative dynamic control solution called ProBat.
This system, produced by the French company Sens of life, combines a predictive approach (calculation of theoretical risk according to annually refined weather conditions) and real-time measurement of bat activity.
This method makes it possible to precisely target, via risk weighting and a multifactorial algorithm, wind turbine shutdowns over periods of effective species activity. Compared with conventional restrictions, the system offers the dual advantage of improving species protection – particularly during peaks of activity or unfamiliar presence – while optimising production losses to more productive and controlled levels.
RES played a pivotal role in ensuring the new technology was approved by regulators, installed on site and managed correctly by experts to ensure the wind farm could begin operating more effectively.
Doing what’s right for the local environment
As the world’s largest independent renewables company we believe we have a duty to make a positive difference by promoting effective operation, good governance, and ethical business conduct throughout the energy industry across the world.
RES’ 2020 Power for Good report can be read here