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Solar and Biodiversity

Younity blog | May 2024

Westmill Wind and Solar

Restoring our energy future and our land. The power of solar in protecting the UK’s biodiversity.

Sure, solar power helps address the energy crisis – it’s also a powerful ally in restoring our degraded farmland. It can promote wildflower meadows, act as havens for bees and birds, and enhance ecosystem resilience. Read on to explore how solar and wildlife can not only co-exist, but thrive, when paired together.


Let’s first take a look at what the sceptics say. Many believe solar panels are pests for farmland as they:

  • Take up too much space
  • Deplete habitats
  • Lose profits for farmers
  • Are uneasy on the eye

Whilst we can’t build solar panels in the style of Picasso, there are endless examples of where solar has enhanced habitats, food production, and profits for farmers. They also offer a chance for land to breathe and recover from intensive farming, restoring them to a healthy status. We’ve even seen huge leaps with coal mines becoming flourishing solar farms, enabling clean energy and air!

In 2021, a law was introduced upholding all developments, including solar farms, to increase biodiversity by at least 10%. When a farmer has thriving wildlife, they can sell biodiversity credits to developers unable to increase biodiversity directly on the developed land. This creates additional revenue streams for farmers and works harmoniously with promoting biodiversity in solar farms. 

Solar UK’s map below is overflowing with examples of how to protect and restore biodiversity on solar farms.

Solar and biodiversity

Supplementing this map are many examples of cattle and solar living symbiotically too! Let's take sheep as an example – while grazing, they trample old plant debris into the soil. As those materials break down, the vegetation under and around the solar becomes fertilized. This leads to perfect conditions for growing fruit and vegetables including tomatoes, lettuce and garlic!

Taking the impact of solar and wildlife one step further are a handful of community energy groups in the UK. These include Westmill Wind and Solar, Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy, Shropshire and Telford Community Energy and Energy Garden – click on their names to explore more! The profits from the solar and wind energy produced by these groups are invested in enhancing the biodiversity of the site, other community projects or in paying back their investors. These are the structures and models to aim for – power for the people, and the plants.

Unlocking the power of biodiversity and solar farms leads to a wealth of positive impacts. These include:

  • Enhancing ecosystem resilience
  • Boosting pollination for agriculture
  • Improving soil health
  • Increasing carbon sequestration
  • Supporting mental well-being with greater access to natural spaces

As we round up this exploration into solar farms and biodiversity, its worth taking stock of the endless opportunities for solar panels to be installed on existing rooftops too. We can work towards a future where we rebalance farmland and wildlife with clean energy, and utilise roof space on-top of schools, offices and warehouses to guide us into a brighter future.