NRG purchased a combined 20,000 acres of desert habitat and placed them in conservation easements in the Southwest U.S. to protect populations of desert tortoise, kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, burrowing owl and golden eagle. The easements are adjacent to or nearby NRG Solar installations.
Our Ivanpah solar plant has resulted in the translocation of desert tortoises. As a part of our Ivanpah partner BrightSource Energy’s extensive desert tortoise protection program, NRG has helped establish a “head-start” program at the Ivanpah project site. Head start programs are a critical avenue for enhancing repopulation of the desert tortoise—a federally listed “threatened” species. In their natural environment, less than 10 percent of juvenile desert tortoises survive beyond five years of age due to predation from ravens, kit foxes, and coyotes and other factors such as drought and disease, but the head start program significantly increases that survival rate.
Prior to each tortoise’s move, biologists are involved to prepare the tortoise’s eventual move back into the wild. They identify an ideal habitat near where the tortoise was originally found on the project site. When the time of year and temperatures are appropriate for translocation activity, desert tortoise biologists begin by conducting a medical assessment of the tortoises to ensure they are healthy and ready for translocation. Next, with oversight from a Bureau of Land Management biologist, two tortoises at a time are taken from the tortoise nursery to their new, pre-determined location. The Ivanpah biologists are doing all that they can to ensure the tortoises have a safe transition back into their natural habitat. Many regulatory agencies were involved in the nearly four-year permitting process of the Ivanpah solar project, including agencies that specialize in the protection of birds and other species. The Ivanpah solar project was reviewed and approved by the California Energy Commission and Bureau of Land Management with significant input and guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game. They determined that the risks to birds and other species were insignificant and could be mitigated with the proper planning.
For more information, visit www.ivanpahsolar.com.
In the Northeast, employees at NRG facilities are helping support the resurgence of osprey through the construction of osprey nesting platforms.
At our Norwalk Harbor Station in Connecticut, a webcam allows the Norwalk Maritime Center the opportunity to observe osprey nesting activity as an educational experiment.
Several other NRG plants have supported habitat enhancement projects. At NRG's Huntley and Oswego plants in New York, we built and donated blue bird, tree swallow and barn owl houses, as well as wood duck nesting boxes. We installed the bird houses at plant sites and distributed them throughout the community, including to Boy Scouts troops. The troops used the installed houses to earn merit badges for conservation.
In Pennsylvania, NRG has partnered with several private landowners to restore bog turtle habitat near the Delaware River. The bog turtle is designated as a federally threatened species. Bog turtles prefer to live in spring seeps and open, marshy meadows, which are usually found in flat or gently rolling landscapes. Yet, these same areas are also prime locations in which to build homes and housing developments to support the urban and suburban sprawl that centers around cities in the Northeast.
California Least Tern
For more than 15 years, NRG has diligently monitored the nesting activity of the federally endangered California least tern at our Pittsburg Generating Station property near San Francisco Bay. The small nesting area is protected from human intrusion each year during the nesting season and cleared of tall vegetation that may interfere with nesting or provide cover for predators. Data collected from our surveys is compiled and sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game for addition into their annual least tern nesting reports.
At our Saguaro facility in Nevada, NRG funded and worked with a local Boy Scout troop on the construction and installation of "bat boxes" to help protect bat populations.
Working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, we funded signs to educate the public about protecting nesting birds at our Devon plant in Connecticut. Also at Devon, NRG employees built and installed nesting boxes for peregrine falcons. The falcon nests are monitored during the breeding season and our employees work with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to support banding activities.
NRG Gulf Coast employees volunteered to train people in workshops to care for wildlife in case of an oil spill.
Through our econrg initiative, native plant wildlife food plots are being planted on unused lands at NRG generation sites. Some plots are small—just a few square feet—while others are many acres. In 2012, NRG planted 17 acres of sunflowers at our Northeast generation sites. The sunflower plots will reseed each year, providing food and shelter for native wildlife.
NRG’s Vienna plant in Maryland participates in an annual shad raising program to enhance native stocks of shad in the Nanticoke River. The shad population is well below historic levels of the early 20th century as a result of overfishing and habitat destruction. Shad are raised in a pond at the plant, then released into the Nanticoke River.
Since 1997, the Chalk Point Station in Prince George’s County, Md. has hosted middle and high school students who have raised shad fry to release into the Patuxent River at Chalk Point. Their efforts, part of a regional living classroom program, contribute to helping the threatened Amercian shad regain its numbers in waters around the nation’s capital.
Since 2010, NRG has helped to fund and provide volunteers to re-establish a sustainable brown trout population in the West Branch of the Susquehannah River with the Old Town Sportsman Association of Clearfield, Pa. During this effort, healthy brown trout fingerlings were stocked in the Clearfield and Curwensville areas. NRG’s 572-megawatt Shawville electric generating station is located on this section of the river and employees from the station volunteered on this project.
NRG actively partners with the Oyster Restoration Partnership to help restore the native oyster reef habitat in the Chesapeake Bay, which has endured decades of decline. Additionally, we support oyster reef restoration efforts in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida, Galveston Bay in Texas, and the Mugu Lagoon in Southern California.