The NFU believes that its members are well-placed to capture renewable natural energy flows, while maintaining our traditional role in food production as well as the delivery of other environmental and land management services. It is the NFU's aspiration that every farmer and grower should have the opportunity to become a net exporter of low-carbon energy.
British farmers are working hard to enhance the British countryside, protect the environment, maintain habitats for native plants and animals, maintain footpaths, protect watercourses and support wildlife species. Productive farming depends on fertile soils and clean water, so it is hardly surprising that farmers prioritise the protection of these vital national resources.
Today, more than a third of farmers and growers are using the sun, wind, farm by-products and energy crops to produce clean, low-carbon energy.
Recent assessments revealed that British farmers hosted or owned some 500 solar farms and 10,000 solar roofs - together about 4,500 megawatts of generation capacity.
Most solar farms are on low grade agricultural fields growing mono-crops such as wheat, oilseed rape or field beans so changing to an electricity crop and allowing the rest of the field to green-up will naturally see an increase in flora and fauna.
One great opportunity for biodiversity on solar farms is that buffers are established around the site and between the array rows – this provides a large area and opportunity for the development of foraging plants which encourages insects.
The NFU is aware of a number of long-term studies of biodiversity in solar farms being published, building upon the guidelines on biodiversity management and agricultural use of solar farms launched in 2014.
Multi-purpose use of land, which supports profitable farming and delivering on ecosystem services, is both a benefit for the renewable industry and agriculture alike.
Published: April 2016
Author: Sofia Valles (NFU)