Wildlife and Renewable Energy: Happy Partners
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Ecotricity will band together to create Britain’s first energy and nature projects that will integrate wildlife habitats into wind, wave, solar, and green gas generation projects.
UK-based energy company Ecotricity teamed up with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to build a large single wind turbine at the its UK headquarters, the Lodge. The Lodge, which accommodates close to 500 staff, is surrounded by a grass and woodland nature reserve currently under restoration.
"It’s a perfect site for a wind turbine as The Lodge will be able to receive energy directly from the turbine," said Mr. Harry Huyton, head of climate and energy at RSPB.
Ecological surveys suggest the new turbine will be unobtrusive to wildlife in the area, but local residents have voiced concerns about the turbine's impact on wildlife and the region's landscape. The project caused some controversy after a number of people objected to the wind turbine as harmful to the region's birds and as an inefficient source of electricity. Miscommunications through media coverage compounded the problem, leaving the public poorly informed.
"We believe that this only reinforces the need for organizations like the RSPB to lead by example and demonstrate how renewable energy does work and can be built in harmony with nature," Mr. Huyton said.
Ecotricity invests more of its income toward building new sources of green electricity than any other supplier in Britain. Ecotricity and RSPB share a belief that avoiding climate change requires a rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. The two groups agree that new wind, wave and solar farms need to be located and designed appropriately so that progress does not hurt wildlife. "Our partnership is about developing green energy on our nature reserves to help cut our own footprints," Mr. Huyton said. "The wind turbine at the Lodge is just one part of our efforts to deliver these targets." RSPB is also installing solar panels wherever they can and intend on embarking on a major retro-fit of energy efficiency across their buildings soon. “I’ve also no doubt that we will consider new wind turbines in the future." RSPB is submitting a planning application for the wind turbine TK. Once constructed, the turbine would generate two-thirds of the organization's total electricity, enabling it to continue reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by three percent annually.
Ecotricity is a UK-based energy company that supplies green electricity and gas. Its business model is unique. "Our core business model is to turn our customers’ bills into windmills," said Mr. Pickering, senior ecologist at Ecotricity. Ecotricity uses the money customers spend on their energy bills to build new sources of green energy, furthering its plan for a greener Britain where people are able to live more sustainable lives and ethical businesses pursue outcomes rather than simply profits.
"We power over 70,000 homes and businesses with electricity harnessed from the power of the wind, the sun and the sea – but we do a lot more than that," Mr. Pickering said.
Ecotricity is building a nationwide charging network for electric cars and planting 20,000 trees at the company's first EcoPark in Gloucestershire. "It’s an exciting place to be," Mr. Pickering said. The collaboration with RSPB will help integrate wildlife habitats and renewable energy projects.
"That’s a very exciting prospect – we’ve already planted a wildflower meadow around our solar park in Lincolnshire, but there are much bigger projects to come," Mr. Pickering said. "By working together we can develop new ways of addressing the problem and encourage others to think more closely about their own carbon emissions. It’s that simple."
The partnership aims to create a link between green energy, an essential in the climate change fight, and nature. Ecotricity is assisting RSPB meet their energy emissions goals and installing electric vehicle charging points at wildlife reserve visitor centers.
Upcoming Ecotricity Projects
New wave power technology will harness the power of the ocean swells and create clean energy on demand - in development Small wind turbines operating in urban or rural areas , which will provide new manufacturing jobs in the Britain - in testing New green gas project - to be announced Ecotricity's Electric Highway, an electric car charging network at motorway services where people can charge up with green energy for free. - Under expansion
Arizona Refuges Harness the Sun
The same partnerships being planned in other countries are being implemented in the United States. The Southwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is composed of three refuges in southwest Arizona along the California state border, installed solar panels in several facilities. The main Complex as well as the Cibola and Imperial refuges independently used Recovery Act funding to install solar cells in order to power their facilities and reduce energy costs. The decision, while ultimately helpful for wildlife in the long run, was a practical decision “We probably have more days without clouds than almost any other place in the world,” said Elaine Johnson, project leader at the SW Arizona National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Kofa, Imperial, and Cibola NWRs. Workers installed the photovoltaic cells on top of the Complex’s parking garage, reducing the energy bill from $17,000 to $5,000 per year. In a separate project at the same time, Cibola and Imperial refuges installed small photovoltaic systems near office buildings, choosing the construction locations to make sure the solar panels would not impact the refuges’ wildlife conservation mission. Other refuges have cut their electric bills in half by switching to On-Demand water heaters. The energy saving measures are good for the planet as a whole and make a difference in terms of operating costs at individual stations.
“To me, we need to be doing everything we can to conserve our natural resources,” Ms. Johnson said. “So if we can take some steps to prevent more land having to be affected by utility lines … that’s what we need to be doing.”