22 May 2020

Better Energy and Habitats create stepping stones for biodiversity in Denmark

New biodiversity blueprints are the way forward for Danish renewable energy company Better Energy. Together with the Danish business and biodiversity specialist Habitats, Better Energy is developing new project-level landscaping schemes for solar plants that will create stepping stones for biodiversity.

A Better Energy solar plant project underway in Denmark will directly contribute to national climate goals and secure more space for biodiversity. Better Energy and Habitats are developing landscaping plans for solar plants that are specifically designed to incorporate areas of rich, wild, diverse nature. Rolled out on a larger scale, these new project-level landscaping schemes will significantly improve conditions for biodiversity in the Danish landscape.

“Better Energy is on a green journey to change the way our society is powered. We want to take full responsibility for the land we use in a wider context. Habitats is contributing their expertise to make our solar plant sites even greener,” says Better Energy CEO Rasmus Lildholdt Kjær, and explains further:

“Solar is unique as a renewable power source because it can combine clean energy production and native species and habitat conservation. With careful research and planning, solar plant sites can help restore and conserve nature, increase biodiversity and support healthy ecosystems.”

Co-founder of Habitats Rasmus Vincentz explains the importance of this new initiative in a wider context:

“We are thrilled to participate in this pilot project which is designed to demonstrate how solar plant sites can create even better conditions for wildlife and ecosystems. Solar plant sites can provide important stepping stones for wildlife and ecosystems and contribute to habitat networks which can help to combat a decline in local biodiversity. There is enormous potential for bringing this model into play in many more solar plants both nationally and internationally – and thereby contributing significantly to the battle against biodiversity loss. We are convinced that this integrated approach will enhance a positive co-existence between nature and people.”

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and human well-being and survival depend on it. Biodiversity and ecosystems provide us with a wide range of services. They regulate our climate, purify our water, pollinate our crops, and they can even limit the effects of natural disasters. Biodiversity and thriving nature are wonderful in and of themselves, and they are an invaluable part of a healthy planet.

“Issues related to ecosystems, biodiversity and climate change must be solved together. A solar plant can be used to give nature the peace and time it needs to recover and rejuvenate if the site is designed with that purpose in mind. By designing our solar plants for multi-purpose use, Better Energy can create havens where nature can thrive and remain protected,” says Michael Vater, vice president for sustainable business at Better Energy.

From vision to impact

Better Energy’s new initiative for greater biodiversity will be first rolled out as a pilot project in the Blangslev solar plant in Næstved Municipality. The landscaping of Blangslev to accommodate greater biodiversity is carefully planned in context of the surroundings. All around the project area, there is a lot of wonderful nature, such as meadows, marshes and a lake, which is classified by the municipality as having high biodiversity.

After a thorough local environmental study, nine distinct biodiversity ’points of impact’ will be incorporated in the solar plant site to ensure that nature gets a head-start and spreads and thrives over the coming years.

“When we design Blangslev in the context of the local area, in practice this means we focus on creating good conditions for species of birds, insects and plants that we know already thrive in the surroundings because then there is a good chance that they will thrive on the solar site. Using this approach, we not only create new and beautiful nature, but also support the existing nature in the local area and give a wealth of species better living conditions,” says Michael Vater from Better Energy.

In the long term, an exchange can occur both ways. When some species thrive on the Blangslev site, over time, they can also migrate to the surrounding areas, creating even wilder and diverse nature there.

“Blangslev is a project where human design, disturbance and careful management must support the unfolding of a wild and diverse nature. We place great emphasis on working with nature and environmental values already present in the landscape, and by highlighting and strengthening these, we give them space and time to grow bigger and more sustainable. This is challenging, but our efforts will definitely pave the way for combinations of human development and biodiversity in the future," explains Rasmus Vincentz of Habitats.

Reframing the future

The actions we take now may seem like small steps, but they will have far-reaching consequences in the future. Supporting biodiversity is more than just restoring land. It is about restoring a sense of connection with nature and a belief that manmade infrastructure and natural infrastructure can co-exist and even thrive together. Shifting this mindset will have a profound and lasting effect.

“We strive to ensure the best possible interaction between people and nature. It is not enough to ensure that nature is ‘out there’ and we humans continue business as usual ‘in here’. We are convinced that the way forward is a positive co-existence between both nature and people, where the classic distinction between nature and people ‘them’ and ‘us’ is eliminated. From this perspective, we see landscapes where man also plays a positive role and is part of an ecological role or function in nature. Through good disturbances, humans help to secure a wild and wonderful nature,” says Rasmus Vincentz of Habitats.

“Nature needs our help to recover. Solar plant sites can serve as important stepping stones to help reverse the trend of declining biodiversity. The crises and challenges we face are great, but so are the possibilities when we take an integrated approach and reframe the solutions,” concludes Rasmus Lildholdt Kjær.