GRI 306-5, GRI 304-2, GRI 304-3, GRI Sector disclosure Biodiversity, EN12, EN13
It is the policy of 50Hertz to keep its impact on nature and the restriction of biodiversity to a minimum. During permit approval procedures for project planning, not only do we consider the economy, needs of residents and technological concerns, but also keeping in mind the protection of plant and animal life. In the preliminary stages of such procedures, environmental impact assessments are launched to minimise any nature conservation conflicts at the early stages. Then,an appropriate route 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 initiated. All the 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 slightest impact on natural features, take conservation periods and requirements into consideration from the get-go and compel companies subcontracting for 50Hertz to consider the environmental aspects of their operations. Following this, a final assessment is underway.
There are 202 compensatory
measures in progress in the
50Hertz grid area as well as
566 measures maintained
in the year under review.
According to the BNatSchG, companies are obligated to avoid causing preventable damage to nature and the landscape or to otherwise keep it to a bare minimum. Whenever possible and reasonable, lines are bundled with existing overhead lines and infrastructures such as railway beds and highways. Line routes are modified to the local natural features so as to impact the integrity of the landscape no more than necessary. 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 liases with the affected communities, conservation agencies, interested citizens and NGOs at the early stage of 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 on a regular basis. 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. The internal assessment commission meets every two months to debate on these measures. The preferred measures are recorded in a real estate cadastre. There are currently 202 compensatory and replacement measures in progress in the 50Hertz grid area and 566 being implemented, maintained or were completed. Therefore, the total number of compensatory and replacement measures has increased from 710 in 2017 to 768 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 flowing 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
50Hertz makes a significant contribution in making the Baltic Sea safe for humans as well as the environment. Every preparation includes the removal of contaminated sites on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, for example, explosive remnants of war from previous world wars. For the Ostwind2 project, whose two offshore wind farms are expected to generate around 725 megawatts in the future, the first clearings and ground surveys began in 2019 in the shallow water area of the Baltic Sea and on land. The idea of an artificial reef is currently being examined as compensation for unavoidable interventions in the Baltic Sea. In this way, an area of 17 hectares and a water depth of up to 40 metres could contribute to the diverse sealife in the Baltic Sea
Compensation measures can be implemented, recognised and booked into an eco pool in advance and without concrete intervention. In 2019, the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation and 50Hertz have laid the foundation stone for the sustainable biotope network in the Sülze Valley southwest of Magdeburg. The aim is to establish a comprehensive biotope network by upgrading and preserving ecologically valuable areas. For this purpose, the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation has set up an eco pool. The aim of the biotope network is to create species-rich and flowering habitats for animals and plants in areas that have become rare today. The cooperation shows that economy and environment are not opposites. With careful planning, it is possible to implement nature conservationally valuable projects in connection with infrastructure projects that would otherwise be difficult or even impossible to realise.50Hertz has already been paying into the project-related eco pool since 2017 and receives eco points in return. These can be used for later necessary compensation measures, for example for the nature conservation compensation of the South-EastLink.
In order to build an overhead line in forested areas, we generally have to establish aisles. In accordance with the necessary safety distances ,the lines need sufficient room to move to the sides and to the ground. Trees must, therefore, be removed from the aisles in sections and at regular intervals. However, trees and shrubs provide natural habitats for countless animals and plants. The objective of 50Hertz is therefore to impact these natural areas as little as possible in the long termand to increase the biodiversity under the lines. With the "Ecological Aisle Management" (EAM), which was already signed-off in 2010 incooperation with the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, a forward looking, intervention-minimising and ecologically compatible route planning and management is being pursued. The path under an overhead line is designed in such a way that natural habitats are created there again, taking into account safe operation. During the course of the project, a biologically diverse and valuable pathway is accordingly developed. 50Hertz is applied by the EAM on a mandatory basis for new lines and on a voluntary basis for existing lines. In the year under review, the various EAM projects that had already been launched were intensively examined for their biodiversity benefits. The aim of the review is to detect the most efficient measures and implement them accordingly in the future.
Extra-high voltage power lines naturally affect the birdlife. For this reason, 50Hertz is also going to great lengths to help minimize negative effects on bird life. In the year under review, the results of a study carried out in association with the Brandenburg State Environmental Agency were evaluated. Video monitoring of a section of an overhead power line equipped with bird protection markers recorded only four accidents out of over 100,000 fly-bys. These results already show the effectiveness of bird protection markers, however, further investigations are still necessary to secure information on the installation and location of the markers. For this reason, the data material was handed over to the experts of the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and the German Nature Conservation Union (NABU), who coincide to operate a bird finding portal, for further evaluation. Bird protection markers are currently installed on around 300 kilometres of an overhead line. 50Hertz plans to supply further overhead lines in 2020.
50Hertz is committed to effective water protection. As the business activities of 50Hertz are not subject to significant water usage,its responsibility in this regard is not so much to reduce water consumption, but to consider water resources in the ground during grid and substation projects as well as avoiding water and soil pollution with hazardous materials. To give an example, 50Hertz has installed special safety features in oil-containing systems. To protect the natural environment, elaborate constructions are installed beneath transformers in substations to prevent water droplets from entering the soil. The safety systems are inspected regularly by maintenance technicians and refurbished or replaced when needed. Wastewater is only discharged with appropriate permission from water authorities and if it was regularly tested for hazardous substances. With regard to water protection, the WHG “Wasserhaushaltsgesetz”: Water Resources Act and state-specific systems regulations (VAwS) are of specific importance to 50Hertz. Employees are trained in the environmentally friendly operation of our systems and water protection officers are continuously updated on all new developments. In the grid area, the requirements of the WHG and VAwS are especially relevant for thecoastal regions of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
The three submarine cables of the grid connection project Ostwind 1, for example, run from the Cluster Westlich Adlergrund in a southerly direction past the island of Rügen through the Greifswalder Bodden to the landing at Lubmin. In the landing zone, sensitive nature conservation areas and valuable biotopes must be crossed. By using the environmentally friendly, trenchless horizontal directional drilling method (HDD method), 50Hertz significantly reduces the impact on flora and fauna in the dune landscape.
50Hertz and Elia signed the Marine Grid Declaration of the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) in 2019, which lays down standards for the early involvement of stakeholders and for nature and species conservation in the development of the offshore grid beyond the legal requirements. The modular approach of the MOG design made it possible to limit the number of submarine cables, thereby reducing not only the cost for society but also reducing the impact on the marine environment.