Launching today, the guidance explains that “Solar farms present an excellent opportunity for biodiversity”. Authored by independent ecologist Dr Guy Parker in partnership with leading UK conservation groups and the Solar Trade Association (STA), the guidance details how to support biodiversity on solar farms.
It also includes research from Dr Parker showing that biodiversity can be greatly enhanced on solar farms compared to arable farm land, encouraging bumblebees and butterflies in particular to thrive. Solar farms typically take up less than 5% of the land they are on so there is a huge opportunity to develop protected habitats to support local wildlife and plant life.
Dr Parker said, “As an ecologist I’ve become very interested in the potential to use solar farms to boost biodiversity. I conducted some preliminary research on four sites which demonstrated a significant increase in the monitored species as compared to surrounding farmland.”
Jonny Williams, Associate Director of the BRE National Solar Centre, the organisation launching the guidance today at Kew Gardens, said “Solar farms are already the most popular local energy development but their potential to protect British wildlife is attracting huge interest.”
Last year, Solarcentury partnered with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Habitat Aid in recognition of the potential for solar parks to become biodiverse wildlife havens.
Susannah Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Solarcentury commented, “Helping the environment has always been a primary concern for Solarcentury. The guidance launching today in conjunction with leading UK conservation charities will be hugely beneficial for wildlife in the UK and can be used alongside the STA 10 commitments for the responsible development of solar parks. As Dr Parker’s research shows, when responsibly developed, solar parks can work in harmony with the surrounding area.”
Siting solar parks on meadows can be a plus for the environment according to research carried out by Miles King Director of Conservation for the Grassland Trust. He found that meadows (unimproved grasslands) are very efficient at absorbing and storing carbon – grasslands lock up a fifth of all soil carbon in the UK. So each hectare of solar farm saves about 25 tonnes of carbon each year. In addition, meadows save a further three tonnes of carbon as it is captured and stored by grassland – this would not happen if the land was being intensively farmed or even if the grass being replaced is ‘improved’.
Besides the biodiversity gains and role of solar in alleviating climate change, solar parks are also the quickest form of energy deployment, reduce the cost of energy for all and help improve the UK’s energy security by reducing reliance on imported energy. Solar continues to receive widespread support from the British public, and seven times more people would prefer a solar farm located near their home than a fracking well.
Harry Huyton, Head of Climate Change at RSPB, said: “The recent IPCC reports show that unless we change our energy systems, climate change threatens to drive the loss of wildlife here in the UK and globally. The IPCC are also clear that solar power has a huge role to play, so it is particularly satisfying to see solar energy developers pledging to deliver clean energy and nature conservation hand-in-hand.”
For more information on: Solarcentury