29 DEC 2022

Iberdrola obtains UNEF's Seal of Excellence for Sustainability at two photovoltaic plants

  • The distinction, awarded after an independent audit, recognises that the parks have been developed with the highest criteria of social and environmental integration.
  • The Olmedilla and Campo Arañuelo III projects, located in Cuenca and Cáceres, join Andévalo, in Huelva, which already achieved the distinction in 2021.

Iberdrola has obtained the Seal of Excellence for Sustainability from the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF) for its Campo Arañuelo III and Olmedilla farms, located in the provinces of Cáceres and Cuenca, respectively. The distinction awarded by UNEF recognises solar power plants built with the highest social and environmental integration criteria.

Specifically, Iberdrola has implemented different initiatives to contribute to local economic activity, such as hiring local personnel for both the construction and operation phases, and has relied on different local companies. In addition, it has carried out various initiatives in line with the primary sector, such as the installation of beehives and access to grazing land with sheep.

In terms of the environment, the company has planted more than 14,000 native species and has built numerous refuges to provide shelter for different species of fauna, such as amphibians, insects and mammals, such as rabbits.

The Olmedilla and Campo Arañuelo III projects join Andévalo, the 50 megawatt (MW) solar park located in the municipality of Puebla de Guzmán (Huelva), which already obtained the same certification in 2021.

Iberdrola already has three solar energy projects that have achieved this distinction, for which an independent audit is carried out by the company SGS, which assesses socioeconomic, biodiversity preservation and restoration and circular economy parameters that respond to Iberdrola's commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The Seal of Excellence in Sustainability was created by UNEF in 2020 to disseminate the best practices of the Spanish photovoltaic sector, reinforcing the commitment of the national photovoltaic sector to a sustainable energy transition.

Continuing with this work, UNEF has become the first entity worldwide to design its own system for the certification of the sustainability of photovoltaic installations, aimed at all companies that may be interested in obtaining it, whether they are developers, builders, owners or any others in the ground-mounted solar plant segment.

"Respect for the environment is one of Iberdrola's core values and its management is materialised through our corporate sustainable development policies. In the last three years, we have carried out more than 1,450 actions to protect biodiversity, combining the installation of renewable projects with the conservation of the biological diversity of ecosystems, caring for flora, fauna and natural heritage", says Julio Castro, CEO of Iberdrola Renovables Energía.

Furthermore, Castro states that "at Iberdrola we strive to ensure that renewable generation coexists positively with the surrounding population, generating local employment and carrying out different initiatives in line with the primary sector, such as the planting of vineyards or the installation of beehives at our plants. Our aim is to drive the transition to a new socio-economic model that is climate neutral, resilient, sustainable and inclusive.

"The achievement of the energy transition cannot be understood without the coexistence and creation of added value between the population, the territory and its biodiversity and the projects, as if it were a 30-year marriage based on respect and mutual conviction of the positive aspects of the initiative", says Rafael Benjumea, president of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union.

"The projects that achieve the UNEF Seal of Excellence in Sustainability demonstrate that there is no source of energy generation more integrated with the territory, biodiversity and citizens than solar energy. We are convinced that, thanks to the existence of this pioneering certification, what seems to be the exception will become the norm in the national photovoltaic sector. In the coming years, we are confident that all ground-mounted solar energy projects will have and will see their excellent standards of social and environmental integration recognised", Benjumea emphasised.

World's first organic solar honey

The 40 MW Campo Arañuelo III solar plant is located in the Cáceres municipality of Romangordo and is the first photovoltaic project in Spain to incorporate a storage system. Specifically, a battery with 3 MW of power and 9 MWh of capacity.

The facility is part of the Campo Arañuelo complex, located in the Almaraz region, made up of the Arañuelo I, II and III photovoltaic plants, which have an installed capacity of 143 MW and will prevent the emission of 41,000 t CO2 /year into the atmosphere. The construction of the complex contributed to the revitalisation of local industry and employment, with the involvement of 500 professionals.

With the same objective of contributing to local economic activity, people from the municipality and Extremadura have been employed for the operation. In addition, a number of local and national companies were involved. Among them, the Extremaduran company Faramax, which was in charge of manufacturing the transformers for the plants in the complex.

As an environmental measure, 40 hives have been installed, from which the world's first organic honey has already been harvested, thus demonstrating that photovoltaic plants are very useful spaces for generating pure honey, while at the same time offering beekeepers safe spaces, free from theft and pesticides. In addition, the plant grounds are also used for grazing sheep.

On the other hand, 650 holm oaks have been planted and breeding nuclei for rabbits have been built with the aim of improving the habitat of the Iberian lynx. Specifically, each population nucleus consists of an enclosure to exclude terrestrial predators, with five vivariums with acclimatisation enclosures and three trap cages per enclosure, three feeders, three drinking troughs, three hoppers and five shelters made of branches.

Other measures carried out at the plant include the construction of nesting boxes, an amphibian breeding pond and anti-collision barriers. Not forgetting the installation of illuminated beacons on the evacuation line.

Promoting local employment

The 50 MW Olmedilla wind farm, located in the municipalities of Valdeverdejo, Alarcón and Olmedilla de Alarcón, produces clean energy for around 30,000 households per year, which will prevent the emission of 18,000 t CO2 /year.

The park's modules are installed on solar trackers. These allow the modules to move along the path of the sun in order to maximise energy collection.

During the construction phase, 55% of the personnel employed was local, in addition to different local companies. Currently, three local employees have been hired for the operation of the plant and one relocation has been facilitated.

The Olmedilla lands have been used to develop different initiatives in line with the primary sector, such as the installation of beehives or the promotion of sheep grazing. On the environmental side, 13,500 native plants have been planted to mitigate the impact on the landscape, as well as a large number of aromatic species, and shelters have been built to provide shelter for insects and other species of fauna in the area.

About UNEF

The Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF) is the sectoral association for photovoltaic solar energy in Spain. Made up of more than 600 companies, entities and groups from the entire technology value chain, it represents more than 90% of the sector's activity in Spain and brings together practically all of them: producers, installers, engineers, manufacturers of raw materials, modules and components, distributors and consultants. UNEF also holds the presidency and co-secretariat of FOTOPLAT, the Spanish photovoltaic technology platform. The platform brings together the leading universities, research centres and companies in photovoltaic R&D in Spain.