Solar farms have vast potential to provide an abundance of benefits to both landscapes and communities across the United Kingdom. With climate change having a profound impact on the planet and limited public awareness on the benefits of solar energy, now more than ever it is important to bust the myths and misconceptions surrounding solar farms.
Where possible solar farms are built on low graded agricultural land to allow numerous benefits to be derived from the space. In some circumstances it may not be possible to avoid pockets of high grade land, but these will only be used if needed to develop an optimum scheme and would not be able to be farmed in isolation. Farmers are not only supported by the solar farm developer financially but are also able to still use the land for agricultural purposes, such as sheep grazing. Solar farms are temporary and once they have come to the end of their operational life can be easily converted back to agricultural land. Repurposing the land for a period allows the soil to recover from intensive farming and use of pesticides, improving farming prospects in the long term. Overall, the harmonious relationship between solar farms, grazing livestock and land regeneration supports the production of renewable energy while sustainably supporting farmers’ practices.
Solar panels can generate electricity during daylight hours irrespective of the weather, they also continue to generate electricity all year round – in summer and in winter . Additionally, continuous innovation and development in electricity storage enables excess energy to be saved and used during non-daylight hours, ensuring a more efficient and consistent supply of renewable energy.
Solar farms that are managed properly and supported with enhancements to the local flora and fauna through the planting of wildflower meadows, hedgerow, and trees, for example, generate a powerhouse for biodiversity. Helping to reduce the use of and avoid harmful chemicals supports the local environment to thrive, increasing the land’s ecological value. The increased presence of wildlife, especially bees, has led to some farmers venturing into apiary farming to generate high quality honey .
Many months of thorough planning are carried out to ensure the land is suitable to install a solar farm. This process ensures minimal disturbance to the soil and local wildlife. Additionally, taking the land out of intensive farming for the life of a solar project allows the soil to recover, and in some cases improve, for long-term benefits if the land is returned to its original state. Extensive plans to support the local wildlife and provide screening are implemented with solar farms developed in synergy with the land to support and preserve the British landscape.
When building solar farms, we work closely with the local community to ensure appropriate and sufficient mitigations are in place to support the local area. Our solar farms sit relatively close to the ground with maximum panel heights around 2.6 m, considering this, we further assess key viewpoints and public rights of way with particular attention to the impacts at these locations. To stop the solar panels being invasive, numerous hedges and trees are planted to preserve the viewpoint and prevent any visual impact. This further enhances the ecological biodiversity within the community.
Solar farms are a valuable source of income for farmers to support operations while still allowing the land to be used for grazing. This allows farmers to repurpose over-farmed land while sustaining financial benefits; letting the soil recover and improve during solar energy generation to reap greater benefits from the land once farmed on again. The solar industry additionally works closely with British farmers to bring down energy costs and ensure long-term sustainable operations.
As the energy crisis continues to impact countries worldwide, solar energy plays a crucial role towards improving the UK’s energy security and competitiveness in the global market . Currently the UK sits within the top three countries in Europe for clean energy investment , in which solar farm energy generation will significantly support the UK Government to meet their commitment to Net Zero by 2050 .
With the cost and risks of global warming equating to an estimated 5% to 20% loss of global GDP each year , investment in solar energy should be a top priority. Allowing the energy sector to work in synergy with the British landscape, solar has a vast potential to support the decarbonisation of the power sector, to help us r.e.think energy and build a better future together.