Unef launches the Certificate of Excellence in Sustainability and Biodiversity Conservation for photovoltaic plants

The Spanish Photovoltaic Union, UNEF, has launched the certification of Excellence in sustainability and the conservation of Biodiversity in photovoltaic plants. The aim is to recognise projects carried out under the best criteria of social and environmental integration.

Ground-mounted solar plants are one of the fundamental pillars for the energy transition in Spain. Their development, in order to be sustainable, must be both socially and environmentally integrated. For this reason, at UNEF we are working to ensure that companies in the sector raise their standards in these respects, both by responding to greater authorisation requirements and by being proactive and introducing additional measures to those required by law“, says Jose Donoso, Director General of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union.

The UNEF Certificate of Excellence in Sustainability and Biodiversity Conservation for photovoltaic plants can be obtained in the development phase of the project before and after the construction of the installation. The assessing entity will be an independent certifying company.

In the first case, the certification process is divided into two phases. In the development phase, a preliminary certificate will be issued based on the analysis of the project documentation provided by the client. In the second phase, after construction, the final certificate will be issued once the on-site evaluation of the plant has been carried out and it is verified that the project has been developed on the basis of the documentation previously provided. If the plant is already built, the documentary analysis and the on-site assessment will be carried out at the same time.

The criteria for the certificate include requirements for socio-economic excellence that take into account the positive impact on local employment, dialogue with local stakeholders or the tractor effect on the national/regional/local economy as well as the compatibility with existing economic activities or the benefit for the local community.

In terms of biodiversity, plants should not be seen as a threat but as an opportunity. Therefore, the criteria in this area focus on the location of the installation, the assessment of its environmental impact, the design of the plant and the connecting power lines and also the circumstances of the construction site. It requires the reversibility of the plants so that by the time they reach the end of their useful life and are dismantled the local environment will have improved considerably during this time. The requirements also include a number of measures to ensure that the plants become nature reserves or nature sanctuaries. Circular economy criteria will also be taken into account.

In addition to the certificate of excellence, the company may, on a voluntary basis, carry out carbon offsetting in the phases prior to the start-up of the facility. For example, through silvicultural treatments and sustainable forest management practices. If this CO2 offsetting is carried out, the project will carry an additional stamp indicating that it is carbon neutral until it is commissioned.

The creation of the Certificate of Excellence in Sustainability and the conservation of Biodiversity in photovoltaic plants is a further step in the sector’s commitment to biodiversity and to the local communities where its projects are located so that they have a positive environmental and socio-economic impact.

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