When running a community engagement exercise for a solar farm, we work with local residents to help them understand what it could mean to them once the construction crew has left and energy starts to be generated.
The wider benefit of renewable energy generation reducing carbon emissions is obvious, but what can often be surprising is the legacy that’s left on the site itself.
Firstly, just because the land is home to solar panels doesn’t mean that traditional farming can’t continue. There are some great examples of sheep grazing the land around and beneath solar panels, which provide shade and shelter. The land stays in food production whilst green energy is generated.
But perhaps the most surprising characteristic of solar farms is the wildlife sanctuaries that they can inadvertently create. By sowing wildflowers and letting the grass below the panels grow naturally, birds and insects are attracted, and can use the land undisturbed.
The BRE has today launched Biodiversity Guidance for Solar Development to help planners and the solar industry to support biodiversity on solar farms.
Improvements to biodiversity can be felt much more widely than just on the solar farm site, and can even create extensions to nearby nature reserves or conservation areas.
This triple whammy means that whilst helping preserve the environment by reducing carbon emissions, solar farms can also effectively create new, abundant habitats; whilst agriculture continues.
Understanding not just what the solar farm will look like, but also how it will feel for years to come is key to communities making informed decisions on proposals in their back yard.