Ecology in action!

Leading ecologist expert in solar farm land management, Guy Parker, explains how solar farms can become havens for wild flowers & wildlife

I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife and have been lucky enough to work in wildlife management for the past 20 years. I’m particularly interested in solar farms and have teamed up with a number of companies to encourage wildlife to their sites. 

It’s great to be involved in the Southill Community Energy solar project right on my doorstep. Not only do I like the idea of our community generating enough electricity to meet our needs, I love the fact that we can make a big difference for local wildlife too. 

Solar farms present a great opportunity for wildlife management. The solar farm itself oversails the land yet ground disturbance is actually pretty small, so the land can be used to create new habitats. In addition, solar farms are secure sites with little disturbance by people. This means wildlife can flourish if we give it a helping hand. 

Southill solar farm will be built on arable land which is currently poor for wildlife. Our plan is to sow the solar farm and surrounding land as a wild flower meadow, a rare habitat in the UK. Chalk specialist plants such as kidney vetch, lady’s bedstraw and wild thyme will be sown. The meadow will flower from spring to late summer and attract a wide variety of wildlife including butterflies, bumblebees, farmland birds, amphibians and reptiles. All these groups are declining in the UK, so to encourage them locally is great, but it’s also of national importance. 

The Southill site is bounded by fine hedgerows which will be protected and managed for wildlife. We have enlisted the help of local volunteers to plant the gaps with native shrubs to improve their value to nesting birds and small mammals. Hedges are also great for screening and will help to keep the solar farm hidden from view. 

We will monitor Southill solar farm over the course of its life to ensure the wildlife benefits we have planned for do actually happen. Every year we’ll be looking for local naturalists to help us, so please do get in touch if you know your wild flowers, your bugs or your birds.