Low Carbon: committed to biodiversity
Low Carbon commissioned its first solar photovoltaic (PV) energy parks in July 2011. Since then, across our UK-wide portfolio of renewable energy projects, we have championed biodiversity as a critical milestone on the journey towards a low-carbon future.
At all our solar parks we work with landowners and developers to implement comprehensive land management programmes. Each aligns with the conditions and circumstances unique to its site. Yet while we are pledged to protecting existing flora and fauna, most parks benefit still more from the introduction of extensive new planting and husbandry measures. As sites mature, ongoing development will realise an increasing diversity of habitats and species: from meadows, hedgerows, wild flowers and woodland to sheep, bees, birds, bats, reptiles and invertebrates.
How we conserve flora and fauna at our solar parks
Boundary trees and woodland provide excellent animal habitats while usefully screening solar arrays from general view. Native oak, willow, hazel, blackthorn and ash are in abundance at sites such as Wilmingham and Warleigh Barton.
Meadows, grassland and wild flowers
Newer sites such as Emberton, Branston and Lackford Estate have seen species-rich, locally-suited grasses established or re-seeded according to land management plans, with medleys of wild flowers attracting a rich variety of birds and insects. At Berwick, landowners have overcome naturally marshy conditions, supporting insects, breeding birds and small mammals by planting over 900m of native hedgerow.
Ground-mount solar parks are often developed on low-grade land, avoiding impact on existing farming methods. At parks such as Rudbaxton and St Columb, livestock has been retained and replenished, allowing fruitful continuity of agricultural best practice. Sizeable flocks graze at Battens Farm, Hellums Field, Wilmingham, Warleigh Barton and Callington.
Critically important to farming and biodiversity, global bee populations are severely affected by climate change. To encourage thriving bee colonies, solar parks provide ideal protected habitats and abundant food sources. Low Carbon partners with beekeepers to manage extensive hives on carefully selected sites. Five per site have been installed at Lackford Estate, Trigon, Trenouth, Hellums Field and Hope, with 10 hives and eight colonies now in situ at Callington. Such initiatives have boosted the total bee population of our solar parks to more than two million and rising. We will also be farming the honey produced at many sites.
Birds and bats
At the award winning Lackford Estate solar park, responsible land management ensures protection of nesting stone curlews, with two 2ha plots set aside specifically to support this declining species. Four Burrows conserves the EU-protected breeding habits of skylarks, with numerous bird and bat boxes installed at most sites.
The ample vegetation which flourishes at most solar PV parks protects and helps propagate a diversity of fauna, with Warleigh Barton‘s hazel coppice ideal for dormice and similar species. At Battens Farm, developers have taken care not to disturb badger setts. At Lackford Estate, transit gaps have been created for smaller mammals.
Insects and fish
Maturing new and re-seeded meadows and flowers naturally encourage butterflies, beetles, spiders and arthropods, with insect hotels and log piles found at numerous sites. At Berwick, roach and carp thrive in a large pond.
Amphibians and reptiles
All parks have established land management programmes sympathetic to lizards, frogs, toads and other reptiles. Branston features hibernacula attractive to these fast-disappearing species.