Environment & the future

 Sustainable Protection of Our Environment

Infrastructure and environmental protection

Infrastructure projects always constitute an encroachment into the world in which people live. Irrespective of whether these are for roads, railway lines or power lines, the constructions are visible, take up space and usually shape the landscape for many years. But are environmental protection and required infrastructure necessarily at odds with each other?

Austria has very strict legislation governing environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for major projects. The objective of the EIA process is to gain a comprehensive overview of the effects of the project in question on people, their living space and the environment. In the case of the planned 380-kV Salzburg line, for example, 23 different areas ranging from geology to ornithology to hydrology and the landscape were examined in minute detail to determine which aspects needed to be taken into account during implementation. Dozens of expert opinions and many thousands of pages of project descriptions and studies had to be presented to show why the project will be environmentally compatible within the meaning of the EIA Act. Only when all documents have been officially appraised and the submissions by the parties involved in the process examined in depth will approval be granted.

APG also implements comprehensive environmental conservation and animal welfare measures for individual projects and existing facilities. During power line construction, for instance, birds are protected from collisions by appropriate markings on power lines. Nesting sites for endangered bird species are also installed on electricity plyons to make the birds’ natural habitat more attractive. And along power lines, entirely new habitats are even created for animal and plant species that are no longer found in areas in which farming plays a key role. In collaboration with experts from NGOs, universities and other research institutions, APG has demonstrated in many of its projects that environmental protection and infrastructure projects do not need to be mutually exclusive.

As part of sustainable route management, APG implements projects to protect species and biotopes, such as the projects to protect the Great Bustard, the Saker Falcon, the Hoopoe and the Ural Owl. Transmission line corridors passing through forested areas are popular refuges for animals and also offer clearings where rare plants can thrive.

Sustainable route management

APG developed the concept of sustainable route management over 20 years ago. This lays down internal environmental protection guidelines for the maintenance and repair of power lines. What this specifically means is that when required maintenance work is being planned, consideration is given to the breeding periods of animals and the growing season for their food. The maintenance work itself is carried out – with the assistance of experts – in such a way that it is particularly gentle on flora and fauna along power lines. As a basic principle, additional measures are also continually implemented to support the development of endangered animal and plant species.

Nesting platforms for saker falcons & co.

Through the continuous incorporation of experts into sustainable route management, APG frequently carries out exciting nature conservation and animal welfare projects. APG’s commitment to the saker falcon is just one of many examples. The saker falcon is classified as an endangered species, due in particular to the absence of suitable nesting sites. In collaboration with BirdLife Austria and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, electricity plyons were identified as extremely good locations for such nesting sites – as long as they were equipped with appropriate nesting platforms. Since 2010, such platforms have been installed at suitable pylon sites under the watchful eye of experts. This has led to a significant increase in the saker falcon population in the areas concerned.

Route & plyon foot design

Power lines mostly run through fields and forests. APG needs to manage its power lines so as to ensure that plants growing below them do not exceed a certain height and thus maintain a safe distance from the power lines. However, power lines can also become particularly interesting and rare habitats for plants and animals if they are designed accordingly. In the interests of sustainable route management, APG conducts research projects within the framework of which special seeds are sown along lines, for example in woodland, thus creating clearings that would otherwise not exist in forests and providing special food for forest dwellers. Small biotopes with a particularly large variety of plants and animals are also created directly under electricity plyons, i.e. on the pylon foundations in the steel grid construction above, if special greening is carried out there.

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