The guidance urges solar farms to be considered in the context of existing designated habitats and corridors to help improve the overall network of spaces for wildlife.

Aimed at planners, ecologists, developers, clients and landowners, the guide outlines options for maximising biodiversity at solar sites and explains a “very wide range of habitat enhancements”, from beetle banks to winter food planting for birds.

According to BRE, solar farms typically take up less than 5% of the land they are on leaving huge scope to develop protected habitats to support local wildlife and plant life.

BRE NSC associate director Jonny Williams said: “Solar farms are already the most popular local energy development but their potential to protect British wildlife is attracting huge interest.

“The BRE NSC has been working to define best practice for solar farms and we have developed this specific biodiversity guidance to help conservation groups, communities, solar developers and planners deliver great results for nature,” added Williams.

Speaking at the launch of the guidance at Kew Gardens today, National Trust’s rural enterprises director, Patrick Begg said: “New renewable sources, such as solar farms, are vital if we are to generate the low carbon, clean energy that we need to power the nation but they must be developed in harmony with the landscape.

“We are keen to work with and encourage the solar industry to do more to help protect the wildlife and landscapes that we love forever, and this biodiversity guidance is a fantastic tool for doing that,” added Begg.

According to a new report published today, the UK is forecast to be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) market in Europe in 2014, fuelled by the rapid growth in ground-mounted solar PV farms.

The report, carried out by solar market analyst NPD Solarbuzz, claims that more than 120 large-scale solar PV farms in the UK have recently received project-planning approval, and many of them are targeting completion within the next 12 months.

Earlier this month, the Government launched its solar strategy which aims to open up the market for mid-size, commercial and industrial onsite generation and to complete one million roof installations by the end of 2015.

Leigh Stringer

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