Impact of Solar Plants on Biodiversity
Photovoltaic systems operate without producing air, water or solid waste. Its negative impact on the environment lies in the production of solar cells, which are made primarily of silicon dioxide (from sand) and the extraction of silicon from silicon dioxide, which may require the use of fossil fuels. Thus, solar energy brings a direct impact on the environment through production, but offers clean energy through the life cycle of the solar cell.
However, large-scale production of electricity using photovoltaic energy requires a large amount of land, due to the low density of photovoltaic energy. Land use can be reduced by installing the system on buildings and other populated areas, although this reduces efficiency. Like PV, solar thermal technologies do not generate air emissions, although some emissions are generated during the production of both technologies. Water usage for solar thermal power plants is similar to the amounts required for coal or nuclear power plants of comparable size. The biggest problem with solar technologies can be land use as it often takes five hectares of land for every megawatt of capacity.
According to the recommendations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the realization of such projects is not justified in areas of high biodiversity, including protected areas and areas of preserved nature. The development of renewable energy sources that is not compatible with the preservation of protected areas or areas of preserved natural appearance should be avoided because the negative impacts cannot be mitigated to the extent that there are no harmful consequences. This attitude also applies to areas that are not protected, but which are important for the preservation of biodiversity within the protected area (for example, when the development of a project affects vulnerable populations living in the protected area). In order for avoidance to be effective, risks to biodiversity must be identified early, which means that all activities for predicting risks and preventing negative impacts must be undertaken in the project planning stages. Therefore, for the installation of solar panels, it is necessary to take care of choosing a location that should not be located in areas of high risk for important habitats and types of biodiversity. Adequate design in accordance with the natural features of the location is also very important, it is necessary to take care of the location of the infrastructure and the time period of the project activities, which must be favorable for biodiversity (disturbance of animals). Measures taken to reduce the duration, intensity and/or extent of negative impacts that cannot be fully avoided can be identified during early planning, and when developing design alternatives to be considered.
The installation of solar panels leads to changes in the natural values of the area in a way that reduces them to a significant degree, because the necessary components of the solar system: panels, accumulators, inverters, conductors and supporting systems occupy natural habitats that are degraded or destroyed in this way. Also, if the solar power plants are densely placed, the fragmentation of the habitat is greater, and thus the negative impacts on the composition and structures of the communities of plant and animal species.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, the construction of solar power plants must be planned on a previously well-analyzed site from the aspect of biodiversity, with a design that includes the arrangement of facilities on the site in a way that will degrade the land to the least possible extent and negatively affect the species and habitats of the power plant. Any previously identified negative impact must be accompanied by measures to eliminate or mitigate these impacts, taking into account the specificity of solar power plant technology.
Monitoring the state of biodiversity is necessary during the execution of works and during the exploitation of the facility.