This poster is aimed at the solar industry, including solar park owners or managers, who know little about pollinators but are interested in using sites to enhance biodiversity. Ten techniques to make solar parks more pollinator-friendly are suggested and are based directly on evidence from a review study, with input from key stakeholders. The techniques are intended as broad guidelines and more details will be available when the study is published.
The rise of solar energy
Renewable power capacity is increasing as the energy sector decarbonises, with solar photovoltaic (PV) predicted to become the dominant renewable. Much solar PV capacity is deployed as solar parks, which are becoming increasingly common features of the landscape. Solar parks are relatively recent developments, expanding significantly in the UK since 2011, but their deployment has been rapid and they now occupy ~14,000 hectares of land across the country.
Solar park impacts on the environment
Given their rapid expansion, the impacts of solar park on the local environment are relatively unknown. However, understanding is emerging and solar park infrastructure is thought to affect microclimate, soils, vegetation and biodiversity. Biodiversity has been both positively and negatively affected by solar parks and associated land use change, but in species-poor agricultural landscapes where management practices are intensive there is the potential for benefits.
Managing solar parks for pollinators
A host of agricultural-linked drivers have resulted in pollinator decline, with implications for critical ecosystem services such as pollination. Measures identified to mitigate declines, including reversing trends in agricultural intensification, maintaining natural habitat and creating microhabitats could be put into place on solar parks. Considering pollinators and biodiversity when managing solar parks will create a refuge within agricultural landscapes, whilst also ensuring the wider sustainability of solar parks and contributing towards meeting environmental requirements and targets.
Recommended management techniques
Our ten management recommendations are synthesised from the outcomes of an unpublished review study investigating the opportunities to enhance pollinator biodiversity on solar parks. Recommendations are based directly on evidence extracted from 185 peer-reviewed journal articles examining the impact of environmental change on pollinators and the recommendations have also been supplemented with insight from those in the solar industry and ecological consultants.
Management techniques should be interpreted as broad guidelines and their application will vary between sites dependent on physical and cost constraints, although even small areas of application have the potential to provide benefits. A local ecologist should also be consulted before implementing any management actions on solar parks.
More details about the review and management techniques will be available when the study is published.
Hollie is a PhD student within Lancaster Environment Centre and her research aims to establish the potential for solar parks to enhance pollinator biodiversity and boost pollination services to surrounding agricultural land, offering an energy-ecosystem win-win. Hollie’s project is in collaboration with industry partner Low Carbon and aims to produce relevant evidence to inform policy and practice, delivering a real world benefit.
Organisation: Lancaster University