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Biodiversity and the countryside

The territory of Italy can boast an important and wide-ranging richness in terms of biodiversity and A2A places the right emphasis for this heritage to be protected and enhanced. Many of the production companies of the A2A Group are built on or border with areas of high naturalistic wealth and this leads the Group to work increasingly with the utmost respect for local areas not only through the recommendations dictated by laws and regulations but also through its own initiatives of promoting, enhancing and preserving biodiversity. A considerable contribution in this sense is given by the intense and constructive collaboration with entities, institutions and associations for protecting the local area.
The majority of the Group’s energy production from hydroelectric sources comes from two Italian regions that contain two important nature parks, the Stelvio National Park and the Sila National Park. The former extends over four provinces, Sondrio, Brescia, Trento and Bolzano and covers a surface area of approximately 135,000 hectares. The latter, which ranges over the provinces of Cosenza, Crotone and Catanzaro, is to be found in the territory already forming part of the “historical” Calabria National Park, and protects areas of considerable environmental interest in the small Sila, the large Sila and the Greek Sila for a surface area of 73,700 hectares. As far as thermoelectric production is concerned, there are two plants involving areas of particular naturalistic value:

  • the Adda Nord regional park, involving the Cassano d’ Adda (Milan) thermoelectric power station

  • the Mincio regional park, involving the Ponti sul Mincio (Mantua) thermoelectric power station.

Certain plants connected with the Group’s environment sector or the water service can also be found inside or bordering with parks and protected areas. 
The production of hydroelectric energy by pondage plants entails the extraction of water from natural water courses and its storage in dams. To mitigate the effects on biodiversity, the water is not completely deviated and the minimum flow required for maintaining the life of the water course is kept on the bed, the Vital Minimum Flow (VMF).

Testing the release of the vital minimum flow

In 2009 A2A carried out a monitoring campaign by analysing the physical and chemical parameters in the surface water courses involved in the tests set up by the Region of Lombardy, and also made measurements of an ecological and flow nature and prepared technical reports concerning the monitoring of the effects of the VMF on the water courses in the Valtellina downstream from A2A’s plants. These activities continued in 2011. In Calabria A2A has proactively decided to set up similar testing.

In the hydroelectric dams, solid material settles in the stored water due to a slowing down of flow speed, which in natural conditions would flow downstream continuously. Sediment must therefore be periodically removed from the reservoir and this “artificial” removal is carried out by causing the silt to flow from the reservoir bed. This operation does not last many days and leads to somewhat high concentrations of solids in the water course. It should however be noted that also in natural conditions there are moments when the transportation of solid material is particularly intense and this occurs when there are floods. To prevent the effect of an excessive concentration of sediment in the water course during the clearing operation specific technical solutions can be adopted, simulating the conditions that occur during natural flooding to enable the aquatic habitat to overcome the stress. In this connection A2A has drawn up management projects for its reservoirs. During the operation, the chemical and physical parameters on the bed are monitored and the effects on the habitat are controlled with hydro-biological analyses. The collection of data relating to the clearing activities connected with the Sernio reservoir in Valtellina (SO) was completed in 2009-2010. These activities, extended to the Cancano clearing (again Valtellina) in 2010, also continued throughout 2011 with the monitoring of the respective operations.
Extraction leads to the creation of a dam in the water course, which removes the continuity of the flow environment, hindering the passage of fish. To eliminate this effect fish ladders have been built where the main extraction equipment is located.

The turbidimeter at the forni extractor in the Valtellina (SO)

The Forni extractor, situated downstream from the glacier of the same name, is one of the most important hydraulic works forming part of A2A’s hydroelectric system in the province of Sondrio. The water captured by the extractor is channelled through a deviation canal to the S. Giacomo dam and then used to produce hydroelectric energy. Due to the melting of the snows in the spring and of the glacier in the summer, or as the result of heavy storms, the water flowing to the extractor often has a high content of suspended solids. In a logic of transparency and environmental sustainability A2A has decided to give visibility to the values following those events in terms of both specific hourly values (grams/litre) and annual volumes (m3). In agreement with the institutions and local associations, A2A has carried out several activities to monitor and manage the sediment in the hydroelectric reservoirs, as always from the standpoint of placing maximum emphasis on the local territory, biodiversity and the quality of aquatic environments.

  • All the information is published on the website www.a2a.eu in the section dedicated to hydroelectric plants.

 

INTEREG ECOIDRO Project

Begun in April 2009, the Ecoidro project “Use of water and safeguarding of the environment and biodiversity in the Adda, Mera, Poschiavino and Inn basins” came to an end in March 2012. The objective of this project, included in axis 1 “Environment and territory” of the Italo-Swiss INTERREG Programme (2007/2013), is to take action to safeguard and improve aquatic environments, determine the measures to be taken on the hydroelectric system capable of extending their environmental compatibility and place emphasis on improving knowledge about these environments to protect biodiversity from the standpoint of sustainability and giving attention to these issues. ECOIDRO receives 1,076,800 euro as financing from the European Regional Development Fund and the National Rotation Fund as per Law no. 183/87 while a portion amounting to 525,000 euro is self-financed by the bodies and companies involved. Spending commitments for the project amount to 1,624,656 euro of which 1,602,000 euro is the Italian share.
In these three years of activity, A2A, one of the partners supporting this initiative, has been involved in two specific measures included in the project’s intervention plans, no. 3 “The realisation of measures to test the clearance of sediment from basins of particular importance” and no. 2 “The study of the dynamics of the transport of solids which concern basins of particular importance and the design of removal measures”, and has carried out various steps at the Sernio basin (consisting mainly of renaturalising the path of the current and causing sediment flow), with the aim of:

  • Testing sediment removal systems capable of reducing the silting in certain artificial basins, thus recovering dam capacity and full functionality of the plant by means that allow respect for the environment, with specific reference to the fluvial eco-systems downstream.

  • Constantly checking the effects in the short, medium and long term caused by the measures taken.

  • Assessing the testing activities from an economic standpoint.

These activities were carried out at the Sernio basin and then extended in 2010 and 2011 to the Cancano clearance with monitoring of the relative operations

Waste landfills on the other hand lead to a temporary deterioration of the landscape when the waste is brought in. As best practice in the sector specifies, when a landfill is full and reaches the end of its use A2A waterproofs the surface, amongst other things to prevent the formation of percolate, and restores its “greenness”. In addition, in certain cases A2A carries out compensating measures on areas outside the plant such as for example the natural parks of the Ticino and the Baragge.

Planting in the Ticino Park and the Baragge Park

During the latest extension of the Barengo (Novara) landfill which took place in 2010 Ecodeco carried out certain compensation measures consisting of planting and maintaining the green areas in the Ticino and Baragge Parks. These measures were designed to compensate for the loss of approximately 20,000 square metres of woods during the construction of the extension to the landfill and the emissions of CO2 generated by the vehicles carrying the waste on journeys inside the landfill. Similar compensation measures, again regarding the extension of the Barengo landfill, had already been carried out in 2008.

To mitigate the impact of its plants on the landscape, A2A gives emphasis to the way they fit into the landscape through careful planning and the construction of green barriers. Some practical examples of the measures being taken are provided in the following.

The blending of thermoelectric plants into the landscape and the environment

The work on the first environmental compensation lot specified in the authorisation decree for the plant began at the Gissi thermoelectric power station in 2011.

This work involved arranging the land and subsequently carrying out planting in the area known as the “biological corridor” that runs between the eastern side of the power station and the River Sinello and covers an area of approximately 15,000 m2. These measures are part of the project for redeveloping the area affected by the construction of the plant, approved by the MIBAC, which essentially consists of blending the internal and border areas of the power station with the surrounding territory and landscape. Although differences existed due to function and position, planting in the various areas involved had the laying out of rich, composite green arrangements as its common denominator, native and coherent with the area.
More specifically, the work relating to the “biological corridor” consisted in bedding out species of trees belonging to riparian vegetation, partially enhanced by the inclusion of plants typical of the farming tradition and local landscape. Landscaping and environmental redevelopment work, which began in 2009 and will be completed in 2012, is also being carried out at the Cassano d’Adda (Milan) thermoelectric power station.

 

The landscaped design of Ecodeco’s plants

Ecodeco generally plants protection and bordering hedges around its sites with the aim of creating shelter and a habitat in keeping with the local fauna.
The height of factories is kept low to the extent this is possible and account is taken of the surrounding environment in the choice of colours. Each plant has a pool for channelling the water recovered from rainfall, which is used as a fire protection water reserve.

 

Enviornmental redevelopment at a gas distribution cabin

ASPEM, a subsidiary of A2A, is currently restructuring its gas distribution cabin in Via Cervinia in Varese and is extending green areas by demolishing structures and roads inside the pertaining area, on the basis of orders issued by the municipality. Approximately 2,280 square metres of green will be recovered. This area, situated close to the River Olona, will be converted to meadowland where it will be possible to create habitats for wild species (amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, birds).