top of page
Image by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦

Solar Farms

Image by Andres Siimon

Conservationists are very supportive of well planned and managed solar farms not only because they reduce the use of carbon-based fuels, but due to the creation of extensive tranquil habitats.  Professor Piran White, from the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, states: "In the light of ongoing declines of bees, butterflies and farmland birds across the UK, it is vital that we take every opportunity to encourage more environmentally-sensitive land management. By demonstrating how solar farms can be managed to enhance natural capital and ecosystem services, producing clean energy from solar parks can also deliver important co-benefits for nature conservation".

Because solar farms can be in place for 25-30 years and require minimal human disturbance to maintain, there is potential for a range of conservation initiatives to be implemented. When site planning is being considered, maintaining wildlife habitat for the entire lifespan of the solar farm must be written into planning to ensure that widlife provision is protected, not just for the immediate future, but for the next 30 or so years. According to Wild Oxfordshire, one thing often over looked or underestimated is the cost of management of hedgerows and wildflower meadows surrounding solar farms. These costs need to be factored  in when considering the viability of a project.        

The Solar Panels and Wildlife review 2019 recommends:

Installation/retention of boundary fences such as hedgerows, ditches, stone walls, rough grassland, field margins and scrub.

Planting Pollen and nectar strips.

Security fencing - plant growing climbers e.g honeysuckle and ensure there is a 20-30cm gap between the base of the fence and ground to allow small wildlife to pass through.

Controlled grazing by sheep between panels, with a pause in Spring and Summer to allow vegetation growth.

Installation of artificial structures such as nest boxes, hibernacula and log piles.

Fencing such as this can fragment important wildlife migration corridors and can restrict gene flow for animal as well as plant populations. This can be prevented by leaving gaps at the bottom of fencing.

Schemes such as planting hedgerows and creating wildflower meadows on solar field boundries have far-reaching benefits including biodiversity and habitat provision, flood mitigation, carbon storage, soil erosion mitigation and pollination for food provision. Solar farms such as the one in this photograph provide very limited  benefits for biodiversity. 

Are there negatives to Solar Farms? 

Image by Richard Bell

There are concerns over the loss of productive agricultral land. The campaign group Save British Farming spokeswoman Liz Webster said she fully understood why farmers wanted to enter secure long-term financial agreements when government policy was eroding support for food producers. “Farming is hard enough even with support, so I understand the logic,” she said. “But for the country as a whole it is frightening to see our food security eroded, like this. It will inevitably lead to greater reliance on low-quality imported food, ultimately at the cost of the environment." 

Some people feel that Solar farms spoil the landscape. To lessen their visual impact, ideally they should be located in areas where they are as inconspicuos as possible.   


Thankfully, the UK does not have Solar Power towers such as this one, which many other countries use. A tower is placed in the centre of a large array of mirrors, which "catch" the sunlight and reflect it back to the solar tower. They have been shown to be extremely harmful to birds, causing death when they fly through the focused rays of the sun.

Image by Tim Mossholder

How do we know if a site is suitable for a solar farm?

Solar panels and aquatic insects

At least 300 species of aquatic insects (i.e., mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies and dragonflies) typically lay their eggs on the surface of water and birds, frogs and fish rely on these aquatic insects for food. Aquatic insects can mistake solar panels' shiny dark surfaces for water. When they mate on the solar panels, the insects become vulnerable to predators and when they lay their eggs on the panels' surface, their efforts to reproduce fail. Covering panels with stripes of white tape or similar markings significantly reduces insect attraction to panels.  Researchers recommend not installing solar panels near bodies of water.  

Thomas Edison has been quoted as saying, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left!” 

Solar Panel Roof

Solar Farms on agricultural land 

In April 2022, solar power overtook wind for the first time in the race to develop renewable energy capacity around the globe. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), solar energy now accounts for 28% of the world’s renewable electricity generation capacity, just ahead of wind with 27%.

In the last 10 years there has been huge leaps forward in solar technology. Recent developments even include solar glass. "Glass will no longer be just a component of construction, but also a renewable energy source."  More solar panels are being placed on house roofs, but there is still frustration that more factories, shopping centres etc are not utilising their roof space to accomodate panels.  However, there is good news for us locally - Banbury has been leading the way with an excellent example of a community owned factory roof top solar array.       

Some countries are using car parks to erect solar panelling, shading the cars at the same time as producing energy. Some businesses in the UK are using existing structures for solar panels, with more planning permissions being granted each year. A solar canopy covering Black Friars railway bridge in London has 4,400 fixed photovoltaic panels, covering roughly the size of 23 tennis courts and Vauxhall bus station in London has solar panels on the roof which provide a third of the station's  energy needs. 

As one of the UK's largest community-owned rooftop solar array, it was built in 2016 on the roof of UTC Aerospace Systems's CTG site. Initially there were 2590 solar pv panels, enough to generate 593,204 kWh of clean electricity every year, powering 150 homes and avoiding 5800 tonnes of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere over the 20 years of the project’s lifetime. A further 320 panels were added in 2019, enough to power 21 extra homes with clean, renewable energy. What a great use of a factory roof! 

Installing Solar Panel

Solar farm suitability depends on their siting within the UK. This Solar Resource Map produced for the World Banking Group illustrates the UK's long term average of PVOUT (photovoltaic power potential)  between 1994 and 2018.    

This photovoltaic power potential map was obtained from the “Global Solar Atlas 2.0, a free, web-based application, developed and operated by the company Solargis s.r.o. on behalf of the World Bank Group, utilizing Solargis data, with funding provided by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). 

bottom of page