EDF and partners to research biodiversity benefits of utility-scale solar in UK

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The research will look into the potential impacts of solar arrays on wildlife. Image: EDF Renewables.

EDF Renewables is aiming to collaborate with academic partners to explore the positive impacts utility-scale solar projects have on biodiversity, soil health and farmland management in the UK.

As part of work with sustainability consultancy Nature Positive, EDF Renewables is looking for partners to undertake ecological research at Longfield Solar Farm, a new PV plant proposed by EDF and co-developer Padero Solar in Essex.

The programme will tie into the existing commitments included in the Longfield proposals to deliver substantial biodiversity enhancements through habitat restoration and management.

It is hoped studies at the site will further understanding of the potential impacts of solar on wildlife and biodiversity levels in habitats under and adjacent to arrays, as well as soil health and soil carbon storage. Around 50 hectares within the solar farm will be available as an experimental area.

Expressions of interest are now being sought by 29 July 2022 from researchers to deliver three work packages looking at the impact of PV projects on biodiversity, habitats on solar farmland and the influence of solar farmland management on soil characteristics.

EDF Renewables and Padero Solar previously secured an agreement that would allow the Longfield project to export or import up to 500MW of electricity to and from the grid.

Nature Positive’s Mark Lang said the benefits solar projects can have in improving biodiversity and providing other ecosystem services “have to date been poorly understood. It is hoped the research will contribute to the collective understanding of how solar farms can be effectively managed to enhance biodiversity.”

A report published last month by Solar Energy UK highlighted how PV projects can help land recover from intensive farming and enable the natural environment to flourish. The trade body found that well-designed solar farms can reverse a trend of declining wildlife species by enhancing animal habitats.

In the US, meanwhile, independent power producer Silicon Ranch has created a programme alongside farmers and ranchers to deploy holistic land-use practices on solar projects, with grazing animals, plants and wildlife combining to enhance biodiversity and sequester carbon in the soil.

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