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Biodiversity at our Solar Farms

Our community solar farm may be associated with generating clean energy – but the environmental benefits go a lot further than just replacing fossil fuels. Heart of England Community Energy actively manages their three solar farms  to promote wildlife and enhance biodiversity. Our sites have a bespoke ecological and land management plan to create wildflower meadows which support  bats, owls, small mammals, moths,  butterflies,  bees and other insects. Our efforts not only benefit the environment but also enhance the quality of the land itself.

Promoting Wildflower Growth:

HECE’s community solar farm is proactively maintained to cultivate the farmland it was built on into a vibrant wildflower meadow. When the solar farm was constructed in 2016, 12 species of wildflower and 4 species of grass were sown. By sowing wildflower grassland mixes around the solar panels, we create a thriving habitat that supports diverse plant species and pollinators, promoting increased species richness and local ecosystem health. Areas with shorter, more frequent mown grass are designated to enhance visibility for hunting and foraging by raptors and owls. Longer areas, cut less frequently, provide shelter for small mammals. This intentional management approach ensures a patchwork of habitats with different sward lengths, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of the area.

Did you know? Since the 1930s, Britain has witnessed a staggering 97% reduction in wildflower meadows, a consequence of intensive farming practices. However, a well-managed solar farm can serve as a lasting nature reserve for wildflowers throughout its operational lifetime, delivering substantial benefits to wildlife and biodiversity.


Enhancing Biodiversity through Adaptive Management:

A key aspect of HECE's biodiversity enhancement efforts includes conducting annual surveys that cover botany, breeding birds, and invertebrates. Skilled ecologists perform annual check-ins on the sites, assessing progress and offering valuable insights and recommendations. The collected data serves as a guide for decision-making, allowing adjustments to practices and ensuring a positive impact on the local ecology. This ongoing process helps HECE to sustain the positive direction of these sites.

In 2019, HECE, collaborating with ecological experts, implemented an improved grassland management strategy at the solar farms. This strategy includes placing grass clippings from annual cuts into 'grass mounds'. Disused pallets have been added to these to open up the compacted structure which increases the possibility of habitat favoured by grass snakes This simple yet innovative method creates a tempting habitat for hedgehogs and a range of invertebrates and amphibians to shelter. The heat generated also provides a warm accessible spot for grass snakes to incubate their eggs.

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