Ørsted Donates $2 Million to Conservation Organizations to Preserve Native Prairie near Sunflower Wind Farm
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Building on its commitment to preservation, Ørsted’s donation will support land conservation and restoration activities in the Kansas Flint Hills
Ørsted, a leading clean energy company in the U.S., announced an industry-leading biodiversity initiative near its Sunflower Wind Farm. Ørsted is donating more than $2 million to The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to support voluntary land conservation and restoration activities on up to 3,000 acres of tallgrass prairie habitat within the Flint Hills. Sunflower Wind Farm is a 200MW wind farm located in Marion County, Kansas, that will be operational in fall of 2023.
The initiative advances Ørsted’s commitment to building clean energy projects in harmony with nature and creating a net-positive biodiversity impact for all new projects starting in 2030. Ørsted worked with TNC to assess potential biodiversity impacts of Sunflower Wind Farm, identify conservation strategies and build an implementation program to achieve its net-positive biodiversity ambition. After consultation with TNC and The Conservation Fund, Ørsted committed to a combination of habitat protection and restoration work in the Flint Hills grassland.
“Delivering the renewable energy we need and protecting natural habitats are not zero-sum,”
said Dr. Daniel Willard, Biodiversity Specialist with Ørsted.
“Ørsted’s goals are ambitious, and our investments in biodiversity conservation are increasing year over year. This is an exciting project, and we’re happy to partner with The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy to protect and restore Kansas Flint Hills prairie near our Sunflower Wind Farm.”
Working with local partners and willing landowners, The Conservation Fund will use Ørsted funds to develop and implement customized conservation agreements which preserve high-quality prairie, protect biodiversity and ensure a viable path forward for ranchers. This will provide permanent protection for the tallgrass prairie while maintaining private ownership of working lands.
“Building new renewable energy infrastructure is vital for meeting our climate challenges,”
said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund.
“But at the scale required, it’s essential to prioritize land conservation and restoration. We’re excited to be working with Ørsted to protect vital tallgrass prairie land that supports both the region’s rich biodiversity and robust ranching economy while offering the green energy industry a collaborative model for mitigating its impact on the environment.”
The Flint Hills region consists of 4.5 million acres of tallgrass prairie across eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, representing two-thirds of all remaining tallgrass prairie. This last landscape of tallgrass prairie provides important habitat for greater prairie-chicken, upland sandpiper, Henslow’s sparrow, and many other grassland birds. The landscape also supports a diverse array of wildlife, including America’s eastern-most population of pronghorn, the fastest land animal in North America. The tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills owes much of its persistence to its ranching heritage.
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In addition to conserving tallgrass prairie, Ørsted is working with TNC to support wildlife and restore native plant communities via stewardship efforts on properties protected with conservation easements in the Flint Hills.
“Kansas is home to some of the best grasslands and renewable energy resources in North America. It is important to invest in both, in a way that accelerates renewable energy deployment responsibly and conserves important places like the Flint Hills,”
says Ben Postlethwait, TNC’s Kansas director.
“We were pleased that Ørsted wanted to work with the conservation community and develop a voluntary mitigation framework that is rooted in science at Sunflower Wind Farm. This biodiversity initiative is a model for how conservationists can work with the renewable energy industry on shared goals in the clean energy transition.”
Ørsted’s work with The Nature Conservancy in Kansas will support restoration activities on the ground such as prescribed burns, invasive species removal, grazing management, wildlife support, and scientific assessments to ensure the tallgrass prairie remains in an ecologically healthy state for the benefit of Kansans’ environment and economy. This initiative builds on Ørsted’s broader biodiversity efforts in the U.S., including tallgrass prairie conservation and playa lake restoration in Texas, as well as burrowing owl habitat research in Arizona.