Biodiversity in the UK is in decline. A study by the National Solar Centre showed that 60% of British wildlife has been declining over the past 50 years. Agricultural intensification has been identified as one of the primary causes.
However, recent studies have found that appropriate land management can bring about significant increases in wildlife population on agricultural land.
Solar farms have several advantages when it comes to supporting wildlife; once construction is complete the sites are secure and have very little disturbance from humans except for occasional maintenance visits. As solar panels are set on piles there is minimal disturbance to the ground below allowing plants to grow and wildlife to thrive.
There are a number of options to enhance biodiversity on solar farm these include:
Hedgerows that can be strengthened or new ones planted. These can support a variety of wildlife
Field Margins, these should be around 7-10 metres wide and can easily be established between the security fencing and site boundaries.
Grassland habitats, such as wild flower meadows, pasture, pollen and nectar strips, providing food for pollinating insects, can be established at site boundaries or under the solar arrays.
Artificial structures can also be built for nesting, roosting and hibernation.
Each site will be unique with biodiversity enhancements selected to fit the physical attributes of the site and tie in with the existing habitats and species on and around the site.
Grazing allows the land to remain agriculturally productive which can be a very useful financial supplement to the Landowner. It can provide a low cost way of managing grassland and can increase its conservation value. The solar panels are raised above the ground on piles, which can allow for as much as 95% of the land to be utilised.
Solar farms create an ideal environment for small grazing livestock such, as sheep, hens or geese. They are small enough to pass beneath the rows of panels that can also provide shelter for them from adverse weather conditions or airborne predators.
Sheep are the most popular choice for grazing livestock. The sheep can clip the grass close to the panel piles providing better growth control. They also help to
Improve the fertility of the soil under the panels. This is particularly important for the future when the solar farm is decommissioned and the land returned to full agricultural use.