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German standards for environmentally-friendly solar parks

German solar association BSW and environmental association Naturschutzbund have published a joint paper that defines criteria that can be used to establish whether a ground-mounted solar plant is able to protect nature and species, as well as to add ecological value to the area it occupies.

From pv magazine Germany.

Compared to other forms of energy generation, solar parks have very little impact on the natural area in which they are installed. However, they interfere with the landscape and can affect the habitats of flora and fauna. Undesired effects can be avoided or at least reduced by choosing a suitable natural location or a special project design. German environmental association Naturschutzbund (NABU) and the German solar energy association, BSW-Solar, have published a joint paper that defines criteria for the construction of environmentally-friendly photovoltaic ground-mounted facilities.

It starts with the choice of the location and explains that 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, on the other hand, are convinced that solar parks can add ecological value to such areas – especially if these were previously farmed conventionally.

The two organizations stressed that solar parks should never be built in wetlands of international importance (Ramsar areas), in nature reserves, or in core and maintenance zones of biosphere reserves and other legally protected biotopes. Local nature conservation associations should be included in the planning at an early stage and their knowledge and advice should always be taken into account during planning.

Habitats for ground-breeding birds and open-land habitats for flora and fauna can be used if the solar plants have the ability to create new habitats to promote endangered animal and plant species. Especially in areas that have a high value for the biotope network, the photovoltaic plants must be conceptually integrated as a retreat for certain threatened species. Fragmentation of the landscape should be always avoided.

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Long-term monitoring

NABU and BSW-Solar also established that no more than 5% of a total solar plant site should consist of sealed soil. The installation should also enable the extensive growth of spontaneous vegetation or native, site-appropriate species and their care. The installation of the module rows should be chosen in such a way that sufficient infiltration of precipitation is ensured. Depending on the location, the creation of a wetland biotope could be appropriate in this context.

The maintenance of the plant area should be carried out extensively with grazing or mowing, taking into account the absence of shade, the paper notes. Depending on the vegetation, up to two mowings 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 the insect habitat can be preserved. The development of the natural balance on the plant area should be regularly documented, with suitable long-term monitoring.

“With the jointly developed minimum standards for solar parks, we show that nature conservation and species protection can benefit directly from one another,” says NABU federal managing director, Leif Miller. This would not only earn points for species protection, but also for the acceptance of solar parks among local communities.

“We want win-win solutions for nature and climate protection,” explained BSW-Solar managing director, Carsten Körnig. “Compliance with the quality criteria will avoid conflicts and can simplify and accelerate pending approval procedures.”

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Source: pv magazine