In 2015 the wind energy was thriving, then the news that from April 1st 2016 there would no longer be any subsidies for onshore wind turbines. Many businesses faltered with proposed sites stopped in their tracks. As hard hit as the industry has been, many of the large developers are still scoping sites and progressing forward.
Securing investment for large scale renewable projects remains extremely difficult and therefore protecting slim profit margins is vital. However, over and over we witness ecological and environmental issues on sites being overlooked or misunderstood.
The environment has never been such a hot topic, with the country working on the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and Resource Efficiency Roadmap. Ensuring that you remain on the right side of the law regarding compliance is essential for all renewable projects throughout their entire lifecycle. Getting it wrong, with profit margins forever getting tighter, can lead to poor financial returns and additional public scrutiny.
Environmental issues must be considered at all three stages of a renewables project. At the start of pre-construction, survey work is carried out to evaluate the site. This is normally encompassed by the environmental impact assessment (EIA). It is essential to use experienced, qualified personnel at this stage to prevent misinterpretation and the formation of planning conditions that have little relevance or are impractical.
The second stage; construction is where the largest environmental risk is seen. The planning conditions set by the local council can be difficult to interpret and can often be costly to fulfil. They are, however, law and must be adhered to. Involving a consultancy before undertaking construction can aid in understanding what is required and the associated cost. There are a great number of environmental considerations that must be recognised during the construction process, due to the disturbance caused by development. This is best furnished through use of an ecological clerk of works (ECoW), which is often a planning condition. Although superficially a costly expense, a good professional ECoW can save the project time, money and prevent prosecution.
Finally, after construction is completed there may be a requirement for monitoring, be it ecology, water quality or land restoration. Due to the nature of the industry many sites are sold after construction and the new owner inherits the monitoring commitment. It is always wise to consult the current environmental consultants or bring in independent ones to assess what is required. Don’t inherit problems that you haven’t budgeted for.
Within all stages there is a definite need to incorporate an environmental consultancy in your budget. Although it is an expense, it can be extremely useful in preventing costly hold ups and embarrassing environmental incidents.