The German solar association BSW and the environmental association Naturschutzbund have published a joint article defining criteria that can be used to determine whether a ground-based solar power plant is capable of protecting nature and species, as well as adding ecological value to the area it occupies.
Of pv magazine Germany.
Compared to other forms of energy production, solar parks have very little impact on the natural space in which they are installed. However, they interfere with the landscape and can affect the habitats of flora and fauna. Adverse effects can be avoided or at least reduced by choosing a suitable natural location or a special project design. The German environmental association Naturschutzbund (NABU) and the German solar energy association BSW-Solar have published a joint document defining criteria for the construction of environmentally friendly ground-based photovoltaic installations.
It starts with the choice of location and explains that the requirements for nature and landscape protection should be incorporated into the decision-making process at an early stage. From a nature conservation point of view, areas with high levels of pollution and low levels of nature conservation should be chosen. NABU and BSW-Solar, meanwhile, are convinced that solar parks can add ecological value to these areas – especially if they were previously cultivated conventionally.
Both organizations stressed that solar parks should never be built in wetlands of international importance (Ramsar areas), in nature reserves or in core and maintenance areas of biosphere reserves and other legally biotopes. protected. Local nature conservation associations should be included in planning at an early stage and their knowledge and advice should always be taken into account when planning.
Habitats for ground nesting birds and open ground habitats for flora and fauna can be utilized if solar plants have the capacity to create new habitats to promote endangered animal and plant species. Especially in areas of high value for the biotope network, photovoltaic power plants must be conceptually integrated as a retreat for certain endangered species. Fragmentation of the landscape should always be avoided.
Long term monitoring
NABU and BSW-Solar have also determined that no more than 5% of a solar power plant’s total site should be sealed ground. The installation must also allow the extensive growth of spontaneous vegetation or native species adapted to the site and their maintenance. The installation of the rows of modules must be chosen in such a way as to guarantee sufficient infiltration of precipitation. Depending on the location, the creation of a wetland biotope might be appropriate in this context.
Maintenance of the plant area should be carried out intensively with grazing or mowing, taking into account the absence of shade, notes the paper. Depending on the vegetation, up to two mows per year are recommended. The first mowing is suggested at the end of early summer. As a result, plants can develop and increase fruit growth and insect habitat can be preserved. The evolution of the natural balance in the plant area must be regularly documented, with appropriate long-term monitoring.
“With the jointly developed minimum standards for solar parks, we show that nature conservation and species protection can directly benefit each other,” says Leif Miller, Federal Director General of NABU. This would not only earn points for species protection, but also for the acceptance of solar parks by local communities.
“We want win-win solutions for nature and climate protection,” explained BSW-Solar Managing Director Carsten Körnig. “Meeting the quality criteria will avoid conflicts and can simplify and speed up pending approval procedures.”
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