Environmental activities in Statkraft

Statkraft's core business areas are hydropower and wind power. Neither of these technologies generates significant emissions or discharges, but both cause interventions in ecosystems and the landscape. The objective is always to make interventions as gentle as possible, and adapt them to local conditions.

Hydropower and the environment

Rivers and river systems are important, both as elements of the landscape and as ecosystems. Watercourses play an important role in both droughts and floods, and also have a multi-purpose value for people in the form of recreation, transport and as water supply to households, industry and agriculture. The development and operation of hydropower plants must therefore take into account many interests.

Statkraft’s goal in all activities is to achieve sustainable water management, and our environmental efforts in relation to river systems and fish are comprehensive. Examples of such efforts include environmentally adapted operation of the power plants, laying down suitable spawning and smolt growth substrate, fish restocking, egg planting, construction of fish ladders and improvement of thresholds and migration barriers.

The overall objective for this work is to achieve sustainable and self-recruiting fish populations. Many of these measures are imposed by licence, but Statkraft also implements voluntary measures, often in close cooperation with landowners and local organisations. Statkraft operates two out of three Norwegian gene banks for salmon, nine fish cultivation facilities and is a large producer of stocking fish and fish eggs in Norway and Sweden.

Djupa, Hardangervidda. Statkraft is adding gravel to the river bed to improve spawning conditions for the fish. Photo: Jon Aarbakk

 Statkraft carries out out comprehensive studies of affected river systems. In Norway, the main focus is on salmon and trout, while Sweden and Germany have seen an increasing focus on conserving eel populations. Eel are very vulnerable to turbine injuries when migrating from regulated rivers, and Statkraft is involved in several projects and has implemented various solutions to meet this challenge. In Sweden, eel are now moved downstream of power plants manually, while in Germany a system has been developed to control turbines and stop them when the eel migrate.

Chip which is implanted into the eels. It sends a signal to migromat when eels start to migrate. Running of the landside turbine can be reduced and blades can be opend as wide as possible in order to facilitae migration.

In Norway, the licence terms for many power plants are now under revision, aiming to update the environmental terms to current standards. Reviews are ongoing in the Tokke/Vinje, Røssåga, Folla/Vindøla, Svorka, Altevatn, Aura, Langvatn og Bjerke/Plura  river systems.

The EU's Water Framework Directive is a set of regulations developed to ensure comprehensive management of European water resources based on the ecosystems. In Norway, these regulations have been incorporated into the Framework for water management (the Water Regulations). In 2015 Statkraft has worked strategically with the Water Framework Directive in order to enhance coordination of the company’s actions related to water management in Norway, Sweden and Germany. This work will continue in 2016.

The following case illustrates Statkraft’s approach to environmental management in connection with hydropower:

Wind power and the environment

Both onshore and offshore, Statkraft's wind power developments are facing environmental challenges. Birds are a recurring topic, both due to the risk of birds colliding with the turbines, and because wind farms can drive certain bird species away from their natural habitats or form barriers to important migration routes.

Establishing wind farms with the associated infrastructure can influence living conditions for plants and animals, particularly in the construction phase. It is therefore important to find solutions that are well adapted to the individual location, and to avoid construction activity in particularly vulnerable periods. Noise and landscape aesthetics are also topics that are carefully considered when establishing new wind farms.

Offshore, the impact on the marine environment is a particularly challenging topic, not least as there is currently little knowledge about the consequences for sea mammals, fish and benthic fauna. There are a lot of indications that negative effects occurr mainly in the construction phase, and that offshore wind farms may also benefit the environment in the longer term. A wind farm resting on the seabed can e.g. provide shelter for fish fry and create good growth areas for fish and other organisms.

Since 2005, Statkraft has been involved in R&D activities at the Smøla wind farm to look into how white-tailed eagles and the local variety of willow ptarmigan are affected by the wind farm, and specifically what can be done to avoid collisions between birds and turbines.

A doctoral thesis presented in 2014 concluded that although Statkraft’s activities in Smøla have had an effect on the white-tailed eagles’ reproductive success within and in close proximity to the wind farm, the overall population of white-tailed eagles in the area is still robust and growing. Population studies of white-tailed eagles in the Smøla area indicate that most of the couples which previously bred inside the wind farm area have now found new territories away from the wind farm.

The research that Statkraft and several partner organisations are conducting in Smøla includes using contrast paint and UV-light on the turbines and rotor blades to increase visibility and thereby reducing the risk of collisions between the birds and the turbines. This is the only project in the world where scientific tests of this kind has been performed in full scale. The results of the project are expected in 2016. The research on birds and wind power in Smøla has been ongoing for nearly ten years, resulting in a significant amount of new knowledge about the interaction between eagles and wind power. The knowledge that the research has generated is useful, not only to Statkraft, but also for other operators of on- and offshore windpower. 

The white-tailed eagle population is followed closely on Smøla. Only a few eagle couples now breed inside the wind farm. However, this has not resulted in a noticeable decline in the number of white-tailed eagles in the area. Photo: Bjørn Iuell

The wind park on Smøla. Photo: Bjørn Iuell

Other technologies and the environment

Statkraft is also involved in activities using other technologies, primarily production of gas power (Germany), production of biopower (Germany), production of district heating (Norway and Sweden), grid distribution (Norway) and some gas distribution (Norway through Skagerak Energi).

Gas power results in carbon and NOx emissions, and discharge of cooling water. NOx can impact air quality and contribute to overfertilisation, while discharge of cooling water can impact biodiversity in nearby river systems. Statkraft’s gas power plants are some of Europe's most modern power plants, with high efficiency, good treatment facilities and low emission and discharge risk.  They are located in industrial areas where the additional impact from our plants has little environmental impact.

The link below provides an overview of energy efficiency in Statkraft’s gas power plants, district heating plants and bio power plants:

The operation of district heating plants and bio power plants generates NOx emissions, and district heating plants also emit SOx, which can contribute to acidification of river systems. The amount of SOx emitted varies with the energy source used. Emission and discharge figures are carefully followed up to ensure that the plants comply with their licences.

For district heating plants that use waste as fuel, there may also be challenges in the form of odours, and the activity generates large volumes of wasted treated as hazardous waste.

Environmental challenges in connection with grid activities are primarily related to radiation from power lines and landscape impact, which in turn can change visual qualities and the opportunities for recreational activities in the area.

For gas distribution, the risk lies primarily in gas leakages. This distribution is subject to detailed guidelines and controls covering environmental, health and safety risks.