Ørsted, a leading clean energy company in the U.S., announced today 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 the 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.
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.
About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms. To learn more, visit www.conservationfund.org.
A global clean energy leader, Ørsted develops, constructs, and operates offshore and land-based wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants. Ørsted is the first energy company in the world with a science-based net-zero emissions target as validated by the Science Based Targets initiative.
In the United States, the company has approximately 700 employees and a growing portfolio of clean energy assets and partnerships that includes offshore wind energy, land-based wind energy, solar, storage technologies and e-fuels. A leader across the renewable energy sector in the United States, Ørsted holds the top position in offshore wind energy with approximately 5 gigawatts in development and operates America’s first offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Block Island. Ørsted has a total U.S. land-based capacity of 5 gigawatts across wind, solar, storage technologies and e-fuels. To learn more about the Ørsted U.S. business, visit us.Ørsted.com or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ØrstedUS).
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.