Collaboration produces win-win for farmers and renewables
Setting the scene
BayWa r.e. isn’t just an active player in helping to deliver the energy transition with renewable projects around the world. We’re also a firm believer in the need for a parallel transition in the ecology and agriculture sectors, too.
We’ve been exploring ways of working with local farming communities in areas where we hope to establish new wind projects. We know that building relationships and sharing an open approach to planning and development, right from the start, can help to grow both understanding and support for projects.
The approach we have developed is designed to bring interested farmers together around the table. The aim is to not only discuss ideas, but to support them to bring them to life, helping to deliver sustainable, sound ecological and environmentally friendly agricultural initiatives, which are independent from the project development.
When entering new regions with proposals for new wind, there can be resistance or questions from the local community who may be uncertain as to the benefits and impacts of projects.
This can also be true for members of the farming community, particularly those who do not stand to directly benefit financially from rental or sale of land, or whose own land may be close to any proposed development site.
Taking the time to understand these concerns and to discuss ideas with farmers for ‘green’ initiatives is really important to us. It is why we have a dedicated team of agricultural engineers within BayWa r.e. France who make sure these conversations begin at the same time as we instigate environmental and landscape studies relating to our proposals.
Working in a new geographical area can throw up new challenges for the company, so these round table meetings, which also include external experts, provide an opportunity for us to learn about the local environment from those who are most familiar with it.
While this collaborative, open and innovative approach is in its infancy, we have already rolled it out to excellent effect in a location south east of Marne, in France.
The team from BayWa r.e. is very dynamic, committed and clearly interested in the agri-ecological approach. Together we formed a partnership which allowed me to carry out training in order to improve my practices.
In 2020, we submitted plans for a hybrid 33.6 MW wind and 30 MW solar project. But it was back in 2018 that we first invited farmers to come together and explore the potential for new local initiatives.
Everything from the use of fallow land and biodiversity, through to pollination and hedging was discussed. We learned about the farmers’ concerns, and the farmers in turn gained a deeper understanding of our plans, the project benefits, and our commitment towards reducing carbon emissions.
After several meetings, a partnership was set up with the Marne Chamber of Agriculture to drive through the initiatives.
These included training and financial support for the purchase of two connected weather stations to help with land management, soil quality and frost planning – this in turn helped the farmers to reduce their use of fertiliser.
Planting of ‘honey hedges’ was funded, with the focus on encouraging bees and other pollinators, helping to maintain biodiversity. We also offered training in regenerative agriculture and beekeeping.
This collaborative approach has produced great benefits, helping us to bring forward more renewable energy, while supporting the local community, and demonstrating that we’re serious about doing the right thing for the communities in which we work.
Demonstrating our all-round commitment to the energy, ecological and agricultural transitions is important to us, and it’s why we’ve sought a new way of working with farmers on the ground in areas where we are looking at new wind projects.