One of my favourite aspects of my job is seeing biodiversity and wildlife flourishing at many of the solar farms I’ve worked on. This doesn’t happen by accident, it requires careful planning and management from the very beginning, before the planning application is even submitted. Hedgerows, field margins and wildflower meadows can all provide habitats to support species in decline, such as bees, butterflies and birds.
Solstice Renewables led the solar industry on this – along with establishing outstanding educational and financial community benefits programmes – and it’s now become standard practice in the UK. The same team has set up Eden Renewables in the US, to develop “pollinator-friendly” (as they call it over there) community solar farms, a relatively new concept for the States.
We worked with the industry’s top ecologist, Dr. Guy Parker of Wychwood Biodiversity, to measure the success of Solstice’s ecological programmes. His studies consistently show a greater abundance of wild flowers and grasses, resulting in increased numbers and varieties of species of bumblebees and breeding birds at most of the Solstice sites. The recent Solar Trade Association Report “The Natural Capital value of solar” sets out the science behind the wildlife benefits solar can bring.
The numbers say a lot, but the results are there for all to see; we asked inspirational wildlife photographer Sarah Cheesbrough to record them. Here are some of the beautiful images Sarah took at two of Solstice’s solar farms, in Dorset and Leicestershire, over the last two summers: