PV and biodiversity
Ground-mounted solar parks promote the biodiversity of fauna and flora
It's a hot early summer’s day in Carlino, Italy. The air smells of wild flowers, the birds are singing, the insects are buzzing and all this in the middle of a solar park. For more than 10 years, this small town in northern Italy has been home to a PV park that is divided into three sections with an area of almost 92 hectares and a total capacity of around 22 MWp. The plant has not only been producing green electricity for almost ten years. It has at the same time become the home of various species of songbirds, which live there undisturbed and can raise their offspring in peace year after year. What can be observed here is an effect that will gain in importance, because the habitat for flora and fauna is increasingly being destroyed by, among other things, the agricultural and industrial use of the available land. As a result the preservation of biodiversity is becoming ever more important.
The positive effect of PV on biodiversity
Biological diversity, also known as “biodiversity”, refers to the diversity of the world's animal, fungal and plant life. Biodiversity is threatened in particular by the high level of resource consumption by the world's steadily growing population, changes in land use, increasing environmental pollution, climate change and invasive animal and plant species. The loss of biodiversity has far-reaching scientific, social and political consequences.
Biodiversity PV, a form of agri-PV, integrates photovoltaic systems into agricultural land and promotes biodiversity. The German Association of the New Energy Economy (bne) is proposing a legal basis to ensure that the expansion of photovoltaics is environmentally friendly. This approach offers a win-win-win situation for clean energy, agriculture and nature conservation and is an important part of the energy transition.
With a view to the energy turnaround, the question of the optimal use of the available land is becoming increasingly important. A study by Germany’s Association of Energy Market Innovators (Bundesverband Neue Energiewirtschaft) has taken a closer look at the synergies between the use of land for solar parks and the conservation of the local flora and fauna. The result is indeed an increase in biodiversity. According to the study, the inclusion of biodiversity concepts in the planning of photovoltaic systems can be a successful measure against the decline of insect populations, endangered animal and plant species and soil erosion. This means that open-space photovoltaic systems not only generate green electricity, but also provide a habitat for plants and animals, protecting them from external influences. In other words, it’s a win-win situation.
The cycle of nature
Creating new habitat for flora and fauna can help ensure biodiversity. According to a study from Germany’s Association of Energy Market Innovators (BNE), solar parks act like magnets on a wide variety of living creatures. Some nearly extinct insect species, for example, can find natural protection between solar modules, keeping them and thus the cycle of nature alive.
For example, researchers at Lancaster University have found that the concentration of bees within a radius of one kilometre around a solar park is up to four times higher than on an agricultural area. This is due, among other things, to the different plant species sown next to PV plants.
Flora and fauna feel even more at home with the greenery between the module rows being regularly mown or grazed by sheep. And since neither fertilisers nor pesticides are applied, the nutrient-poor soils become the perfect place for many animal and plant species to nestle into. Plants under existential threat which normally haven’t a chance in professional farmlands, for example, can thrive in solar parks.
SENS enables biodiversity on solar parks
SENS is also actively working on project development measures regarding biodiversity in solar parks worldwide. Though still in their early stages, these measures are being developed along with essential framework conditions in accordance with nature conservation authorities and local guidelines to create an optimal habitat for the animal and plant life in and around solar parks.
- Fences around a solar park, for example, start at 15-20 cm above the ground so smaller animals such as foxes and hares can pass underneath and thus have a natural place of retreat.
- Meadow, bushes and trees, including native herbs and shrubs, are planted in about 10-20% of a solar park, comprising its ecological compensation area.
- Construction work and planting processes are also adapted to specified vegetation periods, meaning no animals are disturbed during breeding seasons.
- A regional seed mixture is sown on the entire area, which is mown once or twice a year. That way, the grass remains standing longer than it usually would on farmland but is still maintained, aiding biodiversity.
These measures are largely uniform requirements for the construction of a solar park, but specifications may vary depending on the region.
An overview of the advantages of using land for photovoltaics:
- Promotion of biodiversity: the diversity of plant and animal species can be maintained and, if necessary, even increased
- Creation of extensive permanent grassland: the greening of land creates habitats for plants and animals in the short and medium term
- Formation of humus: the fertility of the soil is increased and consequently captures CO2 from the air
Do you own pieces of land larger than two hectares? If your land is suitable for building a solar park, you can lease it to SENS and receive an additional income for 30 years. You will be using your land to produce electricity from renewable energy and making an important contribution to the energy transition and biodiversity. Are you a landowner and interested in leasing your land? Get in touch with us!
Image: Solar park in Nauen (Germany), Daniel Raab