Spain is facing a radical transition in its energy sector changing from fossil fuels to renewables, in line with European commitments on climate change. In this context IGNIS, a newcomer in the power sector who had recently acquired a natural gas combined cycle power plan, saw the opportunity of developing a photovoltaic power plant using the combined cycle switchyard and power line. After some preliminary calculations the size of the plant was determined to be the largest in Europe (850 MWp).
TAUW was hired in 2017 to conduct the environmental impact assessment report and be the environmental consultant for the whole project. This is the key permit in the Spanish licensing process and the one that can speed up or delay the project or even . TAUW Spain assigned top senior consultants to the job together with junior consultants and partners specialised in biodiversity, cultural heritage or hydrology.
The project was divided to 18 individual subprojects and each one of them was subject to a complete environmental impact assessment process. After countless meetings with the environmental officials from the Regional Government, adjustments to the design and definition of corrective measures, the permits were granted in 2018.
Despite the significant experience of the TAUW project team, we had never faced such a large and complex photovoltaic project prior to this and neither had the Regional Government. As a request from its Environmental Department we were asked to develop a new quantitative environmental impact assessment methodology that was applied to the 18 individual subprojects.
Most of the work was carried out by the TAUW consultants. However we hired specialists in biodiversity to conduct fauna and flora surveys and specialists in cultural heritage to conduct archaeological surveys.
The cultural heritage team identified a great number of ancient stone huts and the design team worked to modify the project so these historical sites were not negatively affected.
The project success became a great incentive to the client strategy to become a player in the Spanish power sector. The Aragon project will produce 1,7 TWh of clean energy avoiding the emission of 1,7 106 tCO2eq every year (if the same amount of electricity were produced in a coal fired power plant). The project means also new business opportunities (related to maintenance, security, etc.) for one of the less populated areas in Spain and revenues for the local governments.
We have learned that photovoltaic power plants will play a key role in the energy transition and will require thousands of hectares of land. This land is now mostly dedicated to low productivity agriculture and is home to a number of specimens of fauna and flora. We, as a society, need this technology to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions but we also need to preserve biodiversity, and balancing both needs isa key role of our environmental consultants at TAUW.
“TAUW did a great job both technically, in the environmental engineering, as well as supporting the promoter IGNIS with great flexibility throughout the process of processing the Aragon Solar project before the Administration, which was a pioneering project, the largest photovoltaic plant in Europe, in which we all learned a lot” - Pedro Armengod IGNIS Project Manager