Large-scale solar projects have become more common around the world in recent years. But with increased frequency comes scrutiny, most specifically about solar parks can be scaled up sustainably, or whether they simply require too much land which might otherwise be put to better use.
Part of the puzzle must surely lie in finding multiple uses from the same piece of land. Large-scale rooftop solar is, of course, one way around that, as is solar double cropping, where shade-loving edibles are grown underneath solar arrays for protection from the sun.
Another approach is to designate solar parks as nature reserves. UK green energy company Ecotricity has already built a combined solar and wind power plant which features bee-friendly wildflower plantings too. Now Solarcentury -- another British clean energy developer -- is partnering with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to both make its own solar parks a haven for bees and other pollinators and also encourage bee-friendly gardening and farming in the communities surrounding the installations:
Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury commented: “Whenever we develop a solar park, we plant acres of wildflower meadows with native seed mixes that are specifically designed to attract a diversity of wildlife. Our solar parks are fenced off, and frequently situated in remote areas, which creates a safe haven for wildlife. So in addition to generating clean, carbon-free energy, our solar parks are also helping to reinvigorate the much-loved British bumblebee.”
Solarcentury and BBCT plan to engage communities local to solar parks to highlight how people can grow particular plant species in their gardens and public spaces to support bees. It is hoped that this ‘positive loop’ between solar parks and local green spaces will further encourage the establishment of healthy bumblebee populations, as well as Britain’s rarer bumblebees.
Given that global climate change is also a major threat to bees too, this scheme appears to be a win-win for all concerned.