How to avoid harming birds, bats and people

In the process of developing Latvenergo AS wind power plants, field study works have been carried out since April by ornithologists, joined later in the summer by bat researchers and habitat experts, to study the natural habitats in six locations. The works took place from early spring until late autumn. Some studies, such as bird migration, are still ongoing. Most of the planned works have been completed and the data is being compiled. However, due to the limiting factor of the number of experts available in Latvia in some fields, it was not possible to provide bat studies for all sites, for example. It is therefore extremely difficult to accurately predict the duration of the EIA procedure.

According to the requirements of the nature protection legislation, biodiversity studies (including ornithofauna and bat studies) may be carried out by certified experts in the relevant field. Therefore, Latvenergo has engaged certified bat, habitat and wild bird experts to carry out field surveys in the location for potential WPP. The data from the studies should be prepared to a level of detail that will allow decisions to be made on the final location of the WPP, mitigation measures and necessary monitoring requirements during the construction and operation phases of the WPP.

Each expert assesses the location from the perspective of his/her own field; however, to assess the significance of the impacts of the planned action, the results of all expert studies are required. Therefore, in order to obtain an overall view of the location with all possible impacts on the natural habitat, the large amount of data from the experts has to be summarized. Once it is done, the most important and challenging task is to work together with the experts and to find the optimal solutions for co-existence of biodiversity and renewable energy generation in the location of the WPP, based on the data from the field studies.

Ornithologists, bat researchers or chiropterologists and habitat experts study potential locations of the WPPs
Ornithologists, bat researchers or chiropterologists and habitat experts study potential locations of the wind power plants (WPP). Ornithologists were the first to start their studies, later joined by bat and habitat experts.

This season, studies have been carried out in six locations. Due to the high biodiversity of Latvian nature, the data obtained from the studies inevitably bring adjustments to the originally planned locations of the WPPs, and for this reason, it is actually difficult to meet the deadline of one season with the studies. Consequently, there are some locations where additional fieldwork will be required in the following season. Also, the number of experts available in Latvia is a limiting factor. Therefore, it is possible to carry out bat studies for a limited number of locations in one season, for example.

The studies must be carried out in the entire area of the construction location where the WPP and associated infrastructure (connections, roads, substations) are planned to be located, regardless of whether it is located in a marsh, forest or meadow. This is the only way to identify the natural habitat of the area and to be sure that the construction and operation of the wind plants will not have a significant negative impact on biodiversity.

Hydrologists, landscape and cultural history experts will be involved in the preparation of the EIA report
The natural habitat studies are the first step towards the realisation of the WPP, as the results (especially those of ornithofauna studies) show whether it is feasible to build a wind park in the area. After that, various other experts are involved in the EIA process – landscape, cultural and historical, hydrological, etc. – which are needed to prepare the EIA study report. The number of experts to be involved depends mainly on the EIA programme, in which the Environment State Bureau specifies the information amount and level of detail, required for the EIA report, as well as the set of studies and organisational measures needed for the investigation of the area.

EIA procedure for developing an offshore WPP is similar to onshore
The study of potential areas for offshore WPP parks will certainly require the involvement of ornithofauna experts, since, as in the case of onshore WPP, studies and expert opinion on the impact of WPP on seabird populations will be required. Various other impacts of offshore WPPs (impacts on marine ecosystems, impacts on marine fish populations, electromagnetic field effects, etc.) will also need to be assessed before offshore wind plants are built.

First EIA reports could be ready and submitted for assessment in the second half of next year
The EIA procedure is carried out separately for each location of the planned WPP. An EIA report will also be prepared for each location and an opinion of the competent authority will be obtained for each location with the conditions that must be met for the construction and operation of the wind plant.

It is very difficult to predict the exact duration of the EIA procedure, as various developments and unforeseeable circumstances may occur throughout the process, which may require additional studies, preparation of information, experts, etc. If everything goes according to plan, the first EIA reports will be prepared and submitted to the Environment State Bureau in the second half of next year.