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Can solar farms be good for biodiversity ?
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A brownfield site has undergone a dramatic makeover since the installation of a solar farm five months ago. The 5MW solar array at Tavells Farm in Hampshire stands on land previously used as a quarry-cum-landfill site.
Can solar farms be good for biodiversity ?

Something unexpected happened after the solar farm was completed. Where previously there was bare soil, a covering of wild chamomile now graces the 30-acre site on the former coalpit. The wild flowers have completely taken over the grounds in a phenomenon known as ‘natural colonisation’.

The developer of the site, Lightsource Renewable Energy, believes that because chamomiles prefer soil disturbance, the churning of the ground during the installation phase, followed by five months of inactivity has created the perfect haven for the flowers without any planting or seeding.

Conor McGuigan, planning and development director for Lightsource, commented: “Once solar farms are installed, they are remarkably passive. They are quiet, have no moving parts, and have wide avenues in between the rows of panels, meaning that about 70% of a solar farm is actually open grassland.”

Lightsource believes that the passive use of land for solar energy generation has the potential to boost local plants and wildlife, allowing natural habitats to prosper undisturbed in the surrounding hedgerows and pollinating wildflowers to flourish.

Lightsource recently released research that calculated that in order to achieve the UK’s 22GW by 2020 solar ambition just 0.29% of agricultural land would have to host solar farms. In response to criticisms raised by a number of local groups and MPs, the department for communities and government recently issued new planning guidelines for solar farms.

The success of the solar farm on the former quarry and landfill site, supports research by independent ecologists and commissioned by Lightsource which examines the impact solar farms have on biodiversity. Early indications from the research confirm that leaving areas of land passive and fallow for solar farms massively boosts local biodiversity. The full research will be released in the autumn.

Credits:: Peter Bennett - Solar Power Portal

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