Ørsted, a leading clean energy developer, is contributing $100,000 to Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving bird habitat of the western Great Plains, to restore and conserve 500 acres of playas in West Texas near Ørsted’s operating wind farms. Over 19,000 playas are found in the Texas High Plains, the highest density of playas in North America.
Playas are round, shallow wetlands with clay basins that collect and hold water from rainfall and runoff, creating temporary lakes. In arid landscapes, as found in West Texas, these wetlands are a main source of water, providing important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Also a primary source of groundwater recharge to the vast Ogallala Aquifer, playas play an important part in providing future water for communities struggling to deal with drought and declining aquifer levels.
“Playa lakes are biodiversity hotspots of the high plains,” said Daniel Willard, Biodiversity Specialist at Ørsted. “Millions of shorebirds and waterfowl like northern pintail and sandhill cranes flock to Texas playa lakes for overwinter and migration stopover habitat, and other wildlife depend on them for food and nesting through the year. That’s why we are excited to partner with PLJV in support of our mission to generate green energy while protecting and enhancing biodiversity where we work.”
Although playas offer significant ecological benefits, they have historically been misunderstood and undervalued. Over the last several decades more than 80% of playas have been modified by land disturbance and are no longer functioning as healthy. A healthy playa has an intact clay basin — without excavated pits or ditches — that is not buried by sediment from nearby fields. It also is protected by a vegetative buffer that traps sediment and contaminants. Modifying playas can reduce available surface water area, depleting wildlife habitat and disrupting aquifer recharge.
Ørsted’s contribution to this effort will help West Texas landowners restore the ecological function of playas on their property, conserve important habitat and replenish future water resources. The restoration work will consist of filling pits that have been dug in the basins of playas and planting a grass buffer around the restored playa to prevent contaminants from entering the playa basin.
Ørsted is the first renewable energy company to partner with PLJV to support playa restoration work as part of the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative (TxPCI). PLJV, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited, is a founding member of TxPCI, a partnership of key stakeholders devoted to playa conservation in Texas. Since 2017, the TxPCI partnership has restored nearly 3,000 acres of playas.
“PLJV supports renewable energy and is committed to working with renewable energy companies to help mitigate climate change impacts to bird habitat, while working together to conserve natural resources for the benefit of both people and wildlife,” PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter said. “It is rewarding to partner with Ørsted to support cleaner energy while increasing biological function on playas. We appreciate not only Ørsted’s financial commitment to restoring these critical wetlands, but also the shared understanding of the importance of maintaining biodiversity.
This restoration effort builds on Ørsted’s ambition for all renewable energy projects to have a net positive biodiversity impact from 2030 onward. Ørsted’s global biodiversity platform ranges from tallgrass prairie conservation and regrowing coral to monitoring crustacean habitats, seagrass restoration and oyster reintroduction.
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.
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.
In September 2023, Ørsted launched a new paper, Uniting Action on Climate and Biodiversity, which sets out why an integrated approach to these two profound crises is needed, how renewable energy can and must be a force for good on both, and what steps are needed to benefit people and the planet.