Often, when we write about large-scale solar power plants, somebody raises objections about land use, environmental impact and a blight on the landscape.
And these are legitimate concerns.
Indeed, we should think very hard before building solar on threatened or delicate ecosystems. But in a world where much of our open land is already heavily industrialized through conventional farming, is it really fair to single out solar as being particularly harmful on the environment? Some studies have, in fact, shown that solar farms can enhance biodiversity while sequestering carbon, if they are designed and managed correctly.
UK-based solar farm operator Primrose Solar is teaming up with Solarcentury, whose bumblebee-friendly solar farms have made headlines before. This time, the companies are moving well beyond planting wildflowers, aiming for a holistic approach to responsible solar farm development.
Just some of the features being touted on this 48MWp solar farm, which Solarcentury says will generate enough electricity for 11,000 homes, are listed below:
— A full ecological site survey
— Wildlife and habitat management plan
— Planting of wildflowers and pollinator habitat between panels
— Grazing of land in Spring and Fall, ensuring land is used for food production as well as energy
— Use of solar and biodiesel generators during construction
— Permanent composting toilet facilities for construction and maintenance staff
— On-site food provision during construction to minimize lunchtime traffic
— Recycling across site, including canteen waste
— Carpooling scheme during construction
— CCTV cameras running on hydrogen fuel cells
Frans van den Heuvel, CEO Solarcentury, explained that many of these initiatives are being piloted with a view to rolling them out across the company's other project:
“Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar’s continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site. Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we’re looking to roll out across all of our future sites.”
Primrose Solar is also working with local schools to arrange on-site visits and learning sessions about the benefits of renewable energy.