Renewable energy schemes are controversial, and usually require a range of ecology surveys to assess the full impact on protected species, particularly bats and birds. They are usually associated with having a negative and detrimental impact on ecology and protected species.
However, as long as suitable surveys are undertaken to assess the full impacts of the scheme, renewable energy projects can provide ecological enhancements. There are several simple ways to incorporate enhancements into a scheme without affecting the total build area.
PV Solar Farm schemes are usually installed within intensively managed farmland, therefore the impacts on wildlife are usually minimal. There are several recent publications that outline opportunities for ecological enhancement on solar farm developments, including the Natural England Technical Information Note TIN101 ‘Solar parks: maximising environmental benefits’ (2011)
Some enhancements that can easily be included within solar farm schemes include:
- Enhancing management practices of existing hedgerows, or planting new hedgerows around the
- Using existing gaps within hedgerows for access
- Creation and appropriate management of field margins to encourage long sward grassland and wildflowers. This will create green corridors across the
- Transformer stations or other buildings could include built-in bat features or bird nesting
- Creation of log piles within field
Wind turbine developments can also provide ecological enhancement, as long as the turbines are located in suitable locations away from main bird and bat commuting and migratory routes. Some enhancements that should be considered for wind turbine developments include:
- Appropriate management of habitats on site. This could include managing grassland habitats to maintain a long sward or encourage wildflowers
- Creation of linear green corridors away from the turbine locations to maintain connectivity and commuting opportunities that encourage bats and birds away from wind farms
As with all development schemes, appropriate enhancements are assessed on a site specific basis and are dependant on the site location and the species present on site or in the local area.