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New guidance on turning solar farms into biodiversity hotspots

Expert advice on how to optimise biodiversity on solar farms has been launched recently at Kew Gardens by the BRE National Solar Centre (BRE NSC).

The guidance has been authored by ecologist Dr Guy Parker in partnership with The National Trust, RSPB, Plantlife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Eden Project, Buglife, Wychwood Biodiversity, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and the Solar Trade Association (STA).

Solar farms typically take up less than 5 per cent of the land they are on leaving huge scope to develop protected habitats to support local wildlife and plantlife.

Many species benefit from the diversity of light and shade that the solar arrays provide. The guidance urges solar farms to be considered in the context of existing designated habitats and corridors to help improve the overall network of spaces for wildlife.

Aimed at planners, ecologists, developers, clients and landowners, it outlines the options for maximizing this potential and explains a very wide range of habitat enhancements, from beetle banks to winter food planting for birds.

One of the case studies in the study features a partnership by Solarcentury and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to boost bumblebee populations, which have been in significant decline in recent years due to more intensive farming practices.

Harry Huyton of RSPB said: “The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that unless we change our energy systems climate change will devastate our countryside. The IPCC are also clear that solar power has a huge role to play. It is particularly satisfying to see clean solar energy being used to protect the species that fossil fuels are putting at risk. The RSPB is keen to work with solar developers to help support farmland birds, numbers of which have declined dramatically.”

Research by the guide’s author Dr Guy Parker shows that solar farms demonstrably increase biodiversity compared to farmed or neglected land. The BRE NSC guide makes clear that monitoring and learning from experience will be essential on solar farms.

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