Ground-based photovoltaic solar energy projects can be “a refuge for biodiversity”

The Spanish Photovoltaic Union, the majority sector association of solar energy in Spain, has organized today the II Conference on Sustainability and Photovoltaic Plants, in which the main results of the III Report on Sustainability and Solar Energy prepared by the independent environmental consultancy have been presented. EMAT.

This report includes the results obtained in 2023, after the study carried out by EMAT, with the aim of assessing the biodiversity present in different photovoltaic solar installations, using birdlife as the main indicator. In this third study, ground-based solar energy projects with different ages and locations have participated, where field work and data collection have been carried out between the months of April to June 2023.

Among the data obtained, the third edition of the report shows that photovoltaic plants can host a diversity similar to and even greater than that of their surroundings or that of the site itself before installation since, due to the area they occupy, and through proper project design and management, they can make them a “haven for biodiversity.”

EMAT determines, for the third consecutive year, that these projects are especially home to the presence of birds, highlighting some steppe species of singular interest such as the curlew, the roller, the owl, the kestrels (common and lesser), and the red-necked nightjar. Within the studies carried out, the flyover of the ortega sandgrouse that uses the corridors enabled in said plants to feed and a notable presence, normally in flight, but also perched or feeding, of birds of prey (vultures, eagles) has also been detected. , kites, harriers, hawks, owls, etc.).

The Sustainability and Solar Energy Report concludes that there is no doubt that, once the photovoltaic installation is in operation, its space is suitable for the presence of a good number of species of birds, invertebrates and other vertebrates. To the conditions of the habitats generated within the project, the tranquility and absence of other impacts derived from human activity are added as a trigger for the presence of species, becoming “sanctuaries” for biodiversity during the time the facility operates.

UNEF Sustainability and Solar Energy Conference

The Sustainability and Solar Energy Conference, which took place in the Congress of Deputies and was attended by more than 200 people, also had the participation of Hugo Morán, Secretary of State for the Environment and Francina Armengol, president of the Congress of Deputies; as well as representatives of the Congress of Deputies, the Junta de Extremadura, the Junta de Andalucía and the Generalitat Valenciana, mayors of different municipalities and more than 20 experts from the main environmental organizations and the solar energy business network in Spain.

“We are witnessing the increase in solar energy, which very well demonstrates the pace of the energy transition in our country and presents us with an unavoidable challenge, that of incorporating this process into our daily lives, to face the climate and environmental emergency. “It is not a future threat but rather it is a threat that coexists with us,” said Hugo Morán, Secretary of State for the Environment.

“The climate challenge forces us to adapt our society and our model of life. Given this situation, renewable energies, and in particular photovoltaic energy, offer Spain a unique opportunity and we must address this challenge with administrative diligence, with public-private collaboration and with a joint commitment to what is a national project. UNEF’s efforts to open these spaces for dialogue and debate contribute significantly to the achievement of a fair energy transition,” highlighted Francina Armengol, president of the Congress of Deputies.

“That the event is being held here today is no coincidence. At UNEF, we have always believed in an inclusive energy transition, a country project, in which all people, regions, companies and institutions are fundamental and must work hand in hand to complete a path on whose goal the future of the entire society depends. citizenship,” stressed Rafael Benjumea, president of UNEF, during the opening of the event.

UNEF Seal of Excellence in Sustainability

During the Conference, the UNEF 2024 Seals of Excellence in Sustainability have also been awarded to twenty-six new ground-based solar energy projects for their high standards of social and environmental integration belonging to Ibox Energy, Aquila Clean Energy, Esparity Solar, Enel, Iberdrola and Recurrent Energy.

Currently, 39 solar energy projects have achieved the UNEF Seal of Excellence in Sustainability, which shows that sustainability and solar energy are not only not at odds but are complementary and mutually necessary to successfully advance in the path of the energy transition.

The Seal of Excellence in Sustainability, which was created by UNEF in 2020 to disseminate good practices in the Spanish photovoltaic sector, reinforces the commitment of the national photovoltaic sector to a sustainable energy transition.

“It has been three years since UNEF developed the Seal of Excellence in Sustainability, the first certification worldwide that has become a repository of good practices for the comprehensive management of the sustainability of photovoltaic installations and which 39 projects have already obtained. in our country,” Rafael Benjumea recalled.

Three round tables of dialogue for the environmental and social integration of solar energy projects

During the day, three spaces for debate and dialogue were held that brought together the main experts in solar energy, with the main environmental groups, representatives of the Autonomous Communities, mayors and civil society actors, in order to continue advancing in a coordinated and determined manner towards a fair and sustainable energy transition, where solar energy plays a leading role.

· Environmental processing as a guarantee of the energy transition

In this session, Marta Gómez Palenque, general director of Quality and Environmental Assessment of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge; Manuel Argüelles, general director of Energy and Mines of the Generalitat Valenciana; Juan Diego Requena, spokesperson for the PP energy transition commission; Isabel María Pérez, spokesperson for the energy transition commission of the PSOE, and Raúl Gómez Pintado, mayor of Boecillo, have shared their vision and experiences on the environmental processing process that all ground-based solar energy projects in our country must pass favorably. .

· The importance of dialogue with citizens for the completion of the energy transition

In this space, the need to advance social dialogue to achieve the energy transition in Spain has been addressed, focusing on the strategies and good practices that can be carried out to involve citizens and increase social receptivity.

Alipio García Rodríguez, general director of Energy Transition of the Government of Castilla-La Mancha; Manuel Larrasa, Secretary General of Energy of the Junta de Andalucía; Eloi Badia, spokesperson for the Sumar Energy Transition Commission; Rosa Melchor Quiralte, mayor of Alcázar de San Juan; Secundino Caso, president of the Spanish Rural Development Network and Juan Ignacio Pulgar, Development Director of Aquila Clean Energy Spain, have contributed their knowledge and experiences to this table.

· Solar energy: An opportunity for biodiversity

Through his participation in the last debate space, Mar Asunción, head of the WWF Climate and Energy Program; Gonzalo Torralbo, commercial and institutional relations director of Recyclia; Santiago Martín Barajas, director of EMAT, and Erica Morales, Head of Project Sustainability at Statkraft, have concluded that the social and environmental integration of social energy projects is not only already a general reality in photovoltaic projects but has become a a transformative lever for our country.