National Trust supports new guidance to turn solar farms into biodiversity hotspots

We are supporting new guidance to help transform solar developments into great homes for nature.

Thousands of orchids grow alongside a solar array at Plas Newydd in Anglesey (National Trust/Keith Jones)

Thousands of orchids grow alongside a solar array at Plas Newydd in Anglesey (National Trust/Keith Jones)

The expert industry guidelines on how to boost biodiversity on solar farms will be launched today at Kew Gardens by the BRE National Solar Centre (BRE NSC). The guidance has been written by ecologist Dr Guy Parker in partnership with the National Trust, other leading UK conservation groups 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 plant life.

Many species benefit from the diversity of light and shade that the solar arrays provide, including bumble bees. 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.

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.

The guide, which is aimed at planners, ecologists, developers, clients and landowners, outlines the options for maximising this potential and explains a very wide range of habitat enhancements, from beetle banks to winter food planting for birds.

Nature trails for community and school groups are encouraged as part of the guidance (National Trust/Brian Cleckner)

Nature trails for community and school groups are encouraged as part of the guidance (National Trust/Brian Cleckner)

Patrick Begg, National Trust Rural Enterprises Director, who is speaking at the launch, said: “New renewable sources, such as solar farms, are vital if we are to generate the low carbon, clean energy that we need to power the nation but they must be developed in harmony with the landscape.

“We are keen to work with and encourage the solar industry to do more to help protect the wildlife and landscapes that we love forever, and this biodiversity guidance is a fantastic tool for doing that.”

Jonny Williams, Associate Director of the BRE NSC, said: “Solar farms are already the most popular local energy development but their potential to protect British wildlife is attracting huge interest. The BRE NSC has been working to define best practice for solar farms and we have developed this specific biodiversity guidance to help conservation groups, communities, solar developers and planners deliver great results for nature.”

STA CEO Paul Barwell said: “Our 10 Commitments set out the direction of travel for the solar farm industry, which is to deliver multiple benefits, not only for the climate, but for the British countryside. There is huge enthusiasm amongst our membership to turn solar farms into an even greater force for environmental good by providing safe and protected spaces for our vulnerable and declining wildlife and plant species. We very much look forward to seeing partnerships blossom between conservation groups and our members.”

Around 2.5GW of solar farms have already been delivered in the UK. The new guidance will help to encourage more interest in the development of solar farms not only for renewable energy generation but also for the biodiversity benefits which will protect and enhance UK wildlife and plant life for future generations.

The full report, ‘Biodiversity Guidance for Solar Developments’ is available to download now at http://solar-trade.org.uk 

Read more about our clean energy generation and efficiency work at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/energy

 

 

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2 thoughts on “National Trust supports new guidance to turn solar farms into biodiversity hotspots

  1. Odd that you should blog about this. I was only thinking about this yesterday and I don’t view solar power generation as anywhere near as damaging to our environment as say wind turbines and those dreaded fracking procedures. Having said all that, there must still be places within the countryside simply left as they were, treasured wildernesses are few and far between in the world and must remain that way.

    • Hi Tony

      Thanks for the comment. As with all renewables, the National Trust wants solar to be done well: we’ll not support badly located, out of scale or poorly designed proposals. The guidance we’ve backed is all about making the maximum gains for wildlife and biodiversity – something well planned and executed solar arrays can do much more to deliver.

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