Ørsted and The Nature Conservancy to Protect Threatened Texas Prairie at Mockingbird Solar Center
Paris, Texas – Today, Ørsted, a leading clean energy company, announced a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to protect almost 1,000 acres of native prairie in northeast Texas. Less than one percent of the original tallgrass prairies of Texas survive today, and less than five percent remains nationally. The Ørsted-TNC conservation effort will be the largest preservation effort on record for this type of native prairie and Ørsted’s first biodiversity initiative in the U.S.
Ørsted is developing the 471 MW Mockingbird Solar Center in Lamar County, Texas, on approximately 4,900 acres. This acreage includes the Smiley-Woodfin Native Prairie Grassland, the largest contiguous remnant of a rare and threatened type of native prairie found in only a few counties in north Texas. The prairie is an important ecosystem that is rich in biodiversity.
“We need to deliver green energy for this generation while protecting natural habitats for the next. That is why we’ve prioritized the Smiley-Woodfin Prairie in Texas as our first biodiversity initiative in the United States,” said Daniel Willard, Biodiversity Specialist at Ørsted. “We want to thank The Nature Conservancy for working with us on this conservation effort. Drawing on both internal expertise and outside guidance, we will continue to look for opportunities to protect the prairie and ensure that native plants and pollinators thrive.”
Ørsted will purchase almost 1,000 acres of prairie on site for the purpose of donating it to TNC to manage, preserving the habitat from future development. The land to be preserved will be transferred to TNC before the solar farm enters operations and begins delivering clean energy to the community. Construction is scheduled to begin in January and will be completed in 2024.
“The Nature Conservancy has long recognized the unique significance of the Smiley-Woodfin Prairie,” said TNC State Director Suzanne Scott. “Our goal is to manage the native prairie conveyed to TNC to maintain and enhance its biological and botanical diversity. In collaboration with Ørsted, we aim to reduce impacts on native vegetation within the remaining property and provide guidance on how to steward this land going forward.”
Prairies are valuable, productive ecosystems that provide numerous benefits, from flood prevention and water filtration to carbon storage. Native prairies provide habitat for populations of birds, monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
Ørsted initiated a biodiversity review to assess the project’s land impact and identified areas to preserve for highest conservation value. This includes locations of unusual plant species and natural structures that contribute to plant diversity, characteristic of native grasslands in Texas. Ørsted will also implement guidelines and recommendations from TNC to minimize the development impacts of the solar farm.
“Through negotiations between Ørsted and the private landowner, we will be able to achieve an important conservation outcome – preserving a remnant of one of the rarest plant communities in Texas,” said TNC Land Protection Strategy Director David Bezanson.
With this preservation effort, Ørsted will set aside the most undisturbed portion of the Smiley-Woodfin Prairie to highlight the critical nature of grassland conservation throughout the United States and to build on the company’s ambition that all its renewable energy projects have net positive biodiversity impact from 2030 onward. Ørsted’s global biodiversity platform includes programs that range from regrowing coral and monitoring crustacean habitat, to seagrass restoration and oyster reintroduction.
“We are very pleased that construction on the Mockingbird Solar Center is set to commence next week. The Mockingbird Solar Center will bring new construction and maintenance jobs to the area and new tax revenue for our community and school districts over the life of the project. We look forward to working with Ørsted as a partner in our community in the decades ahead,” said Maureen Hammond, Executive Director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation.
Mockingbird Solar Center will produce enough clean energy to power more than 80,000 homes. In addition to generating power and preserving rare and threatened habitat, Ørsted’s Mockingbird Solar Center will provide a significant economic boost to the local community in Lamar County over the life of the project. These benefits include at least 200 jobs during construction and additional ongoing work during operations and maintenance, as well as tax revenue for Lamar County and North Lamar & Chisum Independent School Districts. Over the life of the project, Mockingbird Solar Center is expected to inject over $215 million dollars into the local economy.
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 only energy company in the world with a science-based net-zero emissions target as validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. Four years in a row, the company was ranked the world’s most sustainable energy company by Corporate Knights.
In the United States, the company has approximately 650 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.orsted.com or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ØrstedUS).
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