A pilot measuring program was carried out in 2016 for measuring the environmental footprints in renewable energy plants, with the aim of learning about the impact of these plants upon the environment. A measurement platform (MIMA) was implemented, based on the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) in accordance with ISO 14,040, thanks to which the automation of the data collection, calculation and results analysis processes was made possible.
This initiative allowed us to learn about the magnitude of the impact of renewable generation, particularly during its construction stage, where the greatest amount of emissions is generated. Additionally, the methodology applied allows the breakdown of the impacts based upon the different processes that are carried out (transportation, assembly, power generating equipment, maintenance activities, machinery use, waste, among others) and to identify the origin of the emissions. In this way, environmental management may be prioritized, so that impact mitigation becomes more effective and, when this is not feasible, to offset the emissions generated and thus be able to have truly emission-free energy.
MIMA has been implemented in 20 renewable energy plants and has made it possible to value the environmental data that are normally handled and to use them in measuring the environmental footprints of our plants. The measurement gives us five impact categories:
- Climate Change (eq t CO2)
- Water Depletion (m3 eq)
- Fossil Fuels Depletion (eq t oil)
- Formation of Particulate Materials (eq t PM10)
- Ozone Layer Depletion (eq t CFC-11)
The results allow us to identify those processes that contribute the most to environmental impacts. As an example: through the data obtained in MIMA it was possible to learn that more than 50% of the largest contribution to climate change of a wind power plant during the construction stage comes from its concrete foundations, for which, we have studied design alternatives of wind power generation foundations. The initial results indicate that we will be able to have a design allowing us up to a 25% reduction in the impact of the plant's construction, between 65 and 105 t CO2e/MW.
MIMA, awarded nationally and internationally, is today one of Enel's main digital platforms, in 2020 it had 129 users from different areas of the company, who have benefited from saving time in managing environmental data, access to information in real time and from a dramatic improvement in data traceability. We will continue strengthening this platform during 2021, integrating it to perform the circularity calculation using the metrics of the CirculAbility model developed by Enel, as well as by incorporating a module for the calculation of the personal environmental footprint, seeking to promote among people a greater awareness of their impact upon the planet.