GRI 304-1, GRI 304-2, GRI 304-3, G4-EUS-DMA Biodiversity, G4-EUS-EN12, G4-EUS-EN13, SDG12
For the development of large infrastructure projects, legal requirements apply for the protection of the environment and the compensation of unavoidable interventions in the habitat of humans, animals and plants. The goal of 50Hertz is to correctly integrate compensation measures into the planning process and to develop them in partnership with local stakeholders.
It is the policy of 50Hertz to keep its impact on nature and the restriction of biodiversity as low as possible. During permit approval procedures for project planning, we not only consider the economy, needs of residents and technological concerns, but always keep in mind the protection of plant and animal life. In the preliminary stages of such procedures, environmental impact assessments are carried out to minimise any nature conservation conflicts at an early stage. Then an appropriate corridor is identified in which, in a subsequent step, the exact route of the line through that corridor is mapped and a list of necessary protective, compensatory and replacement measures is compiled. All of these examinations are conducted together with external environmental planners, routing experts and, if necessary, other scientific and nature conservation specialists. Only once the entire process is completed can the construction project commence – under external ecological construction supervision. Site preparation and construction schedules are implemented in ways that minimise even the temporary impact on natural features, take conservation periods and requirements into consideration early in the process, and obligate companies subcontracting for 50Hertz to consider the ecological aspects of their operations. Following this, a final assessment is performed.
According to the BNatSchG [“Bundesnaturschutzgesetz”: FederalAct for the Protection of Nature], there is an obligation to avoid causing preventable damage to nature and the landscape or to otherwise keep it as low as possible. Whenever possible and reasonable, lines are bundled with existing overhead lines and infrastructures such as railway beds and highways. Line routes are adapted to the local natural features so as to impact the integrity of the landscape no more than necessary.
„Our infrastructures alter the landscape and nature. We want to keep these interventions to a minimum and compensate for what cannot be avoided. In doing so, we focus on dialogue with the local people in order to jointly develop sustainable measures. This also includes regionally anchored ecopools, which we develop together with local organisations in order to arrive at effective, coherent compensation measures. Through cooperation, we expand the possibilities and the scope of impact.“
Dr. Danuta Kneipp – Head of public participation
Where interference is unavoidable, 50Hertz takes compensatory and replacement measures. These can be divided into six categories: planting measures, forestry measures, water measures, species protection, dismantling measures and other measures. When planning and implementing compensatory and replacement measures, 50Hertz involves the affected communities, conservation agencies, interested citizens and NGOs early in the process. 50Hertz works with them as partners to develop suitable plans early on and suggests these to the authorities as part of our approval planning. For this purpose, regional eco pools are being used more and more. Eco pools are contributions to projects of other organisations, as well as compensation payments, which enable more comprehensive measures than planting individual replacement plants and are therefore more effective, efficient and sustainable. In 2017, 50Hertz adopted guidelines for targeted compensation management. They define the action areas necessary for successful approval and implementation of the measures. An internal assessment commission meets every two months to decide onthe measures. The chosen measures are recorded in a real estate cadastre. There are currently 292 compensatory and replacement measures being planned in the 50Hertz grid area and 418 being implemented and maintained. Therefore, the total number of compensatory and replacement measures has increased from 630 in 2017 to 710 in the reporting year.
Planting tree aisles and rows, hedges, orchards
Forest restructuring, first afforestation
Pond renaturation, restoring straightened rivers to their original condition, creating small bodies of waters, renaturation of fl owing and still bodies of waters
Unsealing, demolition of buildings in community outdoor areas
Building amphibian protection facilities, nesting aids, bat habitats, reptile habitats, species protection towers
Cabling medium voltage lines
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2018 has been the year where 50Hertz has worked out a long-term ecological approach to foster the development of ecopools in its region through offering multi-annual partnerships. Suchecopools can combine multiple ecological dimensions to enrich ecosystems with fauna and flora. Against the background of the offshore development on the coastal region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, 50Hertz has paid a lot of attention to developing maritime projects such as the removal of a large, artificial dam in the Baltic Sea which was blocking the way water was flowing, leading to a build-up of harmful sedimentation. 50Hertz also initiated the development of a concept to reconstruct reefs in the Baltic Sea region with WWF.
The Kaiserwiese is home to many protected plants and insects. 50Hertz supports the region of the Ilmkreis in securing and upgrading this important natural heritage site, which is under the protection of the European Flora Fauna Habitat Directive. After the Second World War, the meadow was a drop zone for aircraft bombs. The necessary annual mowing in autumn was only possible understringent safety precautions and high expenditure. For years, the head of the Lower Nature Conservation Authority had tried in vain to organise the necessary care for the important habitat of native plant and insect species.
In order to accommodate an overhead power line in forest areas, aisles are usually built. Due to the necessary safety distances, the conductors need sufficient clearance to the sides and to the ground. Trees must therefore be removed regularly in sections along the corridors. However, trees and shrubs provide habitats for numerous animals and plants. Therefore, the goal of 50Hertz is to impair these natural spaces as little as possible in the long term and to increase biodiversity under the overhead lines. In the course of the project, a biologically diverse and valuable aisle develops. German authorities demand that ecological aisle management has to be realised in new construction projects. 50Hertz adheres to these demands and also uses ecological aisle management on existing terrains on a voluntary basis.
Extra-high-voltage lines harm bird life. Hence, 50Hertz also makes a huge effort to protect birds and minimise negative impact. In 2017, a new species-specific method was developedin the course of line construction projects for systematically determining the effects on species populations to enable the identification of targeted protective and compensatory measures. There were plans to install 30 km of bird protection markers in the existing grid in 2018. Due to an accident in the reporting year, the installation was suspended until the accident has been dealt with and an accident avoidance strategy has been developed. The installation of bird protection markers will be continued in 2019 as planned. 50Hertz also continues to actively support the set-up of the “Vogelfund und Stromleitung” (deadbirds and power lines) hotline by NABU (NaturschutzbundDeutschland), a German nature conservation association, as part of the “Renewables Grid Initiative”. 50Hertz conducted a comparative study on the effectiveness of spiral and clack markers, and also installed cameras on two stretches of the grid in a bird sanctuary. All these measures and projects will help to prevent collisions in such places more effectively in future.
High voltage lines can have an adverse effect on birds. Besides concrete actions to support bird species (such as special nests on pylons, aviaries for birds of prey), in 2018, 50Hertz installed additional bird protection markers along specially chosen sections of the existing grid. In the frame of the Renewables Grid Initiative, the company further improved a project conducted by Naturschutz Deutschlande. V. to set up a national “Vogelfund und Stromleitung” hotline (bird finds and power lines hotline). This pioneering initiative– which is the first bird find hotline ever – provides the opportunity to systematically assemble precise information about the impact lines have on birds.
Another step towards consistent reduction of interference with the environment is the development of the “compactLine” pylondesign. This innovative research and development project features lower masts, narrower line routes and a solid-panel tower with a smaller circumference. It will allow us to reduce our interference with landscapes and nature through overhead lines. The compact design provides a good opportunity to integrate a new 380 kV line into existing 220 kV line routes. In August 2018, an approximately two kilometre-long pilot line was trialled.
„The construction of the compactLine using a completely new overhead line design poses a wide variety of challenges for everyone involved. Before we can test the safe operation of the new line, many new developments had to be implemented in the field for the first time. For example, the new line tensioning system required not only special fittings due to the high tensile forces, but also adapted installation equipment for the line.“
Joachim Löbe – Head of Line Projects at 50Hertz