Wind and solar energy have the lowest emissions
Wind energy generation is almost completely emission-free. However, the manufacturing and installation as well as the disposal of wind turbines at the end-of-life, do not happen without any environmental impact. The renewable energy payback time is relatively short, studies show that a 2MW wind turbine has an energy payback time of 5 to 8 months.
Even large-scale solar parks have very low emissions, compared to fossil energy sources. Solar parks can also easily coexist with other activities such as agriculture or animal grazing. The life cycle of a solar park is long, 45-50 years, and after that the land is easy to restore.
By using modern technology, wind and solar, are the most cost-effective ways to generate electricity. The construction of new production sites for wind and solar energy also reduces the total CO2 emissions of the energy grid by replacing fossil fuels with new renewable energy.
In terms of Co2 emissions per energy source over the entire life cycle, the United Nations Climate Panel IPCC has calculated a median value among peer-reviewed studies:
Recycling and circular economy
In addition to achieving carbon neutrality, we need circular economy solutions.
The life cycle of a wind turbine consists of its manufacturing, transport and installation, operation and maintenance, and end-of-life operations, i.e., its decommissioning, recycling, and disposal.
Wind turbines and their components are mostly recyclable. With current methods, more than 90 percent or even the entire wind turbine can be recycled, depending on the manufacturer. The large metal components in a wind turbine are currently made of steel, copper, and aluminum and can be almost completely recycled. The recycling rate of metal components (steel, copper, aluminum) is already very high, usually nearly 100 percent.
The wind turbine blades are made of fiberglass. Ilmatar is committed to recycling the wind turbine blades with the help of technology from Stena Recycling Finland. The recycling technology allows fiberglass to be reused in the cement industry.
Enhancing biodiversity in our project development
We follow the mitigation hierarchy
The primary and most effective way to preserve biodiversity is the mitigation hierarchy. In the project development phase areas with low biodiversity values, such as old peat bogs, fallow lands or intensively treated forests are selected. Protected areas, areas of old forest, valuable rocky areas and undrained natural marshes are already excluded in the early stages of project development. When a suitable area has been found, comprehensive environmental studies will be completed during the permitting phase. The content of the environmental studies depends on the location and characteristics of the area. The aim is to save valuable objects and, as far as possible, limit them outside the project area. Ecological networks and animal routes are sought to be protected in the planning of the project area.
If the deterioration of biodiversity values cannot be avoided, the mitigation of biodiversity disadvantages is the next option. The means of mitigating biodiversity values should be mapped out already early in the project development phase so that they can be taken into account during the construction. The characteristics of the area and local nature values must be taken into account, while planning for the mitigation measures. The most effective means of mitigating biodiversity harm is to try to save as much as possible of the existing nature values on the site. The negative impacts for biodiversity values can be mitigated by the following means:
- By planning alternative routes for animals
- By positioning the project so that it does not damage or weaken valuable nature
- By saving a sufficient protective zone to be left outside the construction to protect the valuable nature
- By protecting nature of value, for example during the construction phase
- By moving valuable items to a safer location during the construction work, e.g. transplanting
- By scheduling the construction works at the optimal time e.g. possible tree removal outside the bird nesting season
The biodiversity values can be improved by creating new habitats, for example by grazing (e.g. pollinators, traditional habitat species), building small ponds (e.g. frogs, dragonflies) or placing insect hotels and piles of rotting wood (e.g. insects, mushrooms) in the area.
Caring for new habitats during the entire life cycle is important. Alien species should be removed and the effectiveness of mitigation measures should be monitored.
If the loss of natural values cannot be avoided or the harm caused to them cannot be mitigated to a sufficient level, compensation is the last option. Compensating for nature values is challenging, as biodiversity values are often location specific and the natural habitats are unique. There are no two completely identical habitats or species. The primary means of compensation is to protect as much as possible of a regional entity similar to the lost habitat. The solution is a habitat type mapping for the project area, based on which similar habitat types are found to be protected in the same extent as close as possible to the project area. The compensation model is actually more suitable for compensating Co2 emissions than biodiversity values. That is how we compensated the loss of the carbon sinks caused by deforestation in the Kohiseva project.