8 November 2022

One of the biggest criticisms we hear about solar farms is the amount of land they use. Did you know that Christmas trees use more land by comparison?

While Christmas trees are only up for a few weeks, solar power has the potential to protect our planet and leave you with more money in your pocket. Lower energy bills are at the top of everyone’s Christmas list this year.

Achieving our net-zero target by 2050 and mitigating the effects of climate change means we have to turbocharge the transition to renewables. Solar presents one of the most viable options for drastically expanding our green energy capacity.

The land cost of solar farming is offset by its environmental benefits. The changes made to land to accommodate solar farm is time-limited and reversible with no waste by-products. Solar farming has the lowest environmental impact of any green energy source and is less of an ‘eye sore’ than wind farms.

The land used for solar farming is a small percentage with unused farmland being an ideal candidate for repurposing into renewable infrastructure. Utilising farmland will enable consumers to have more access to renewable energy, lower energy bills, and a more reliable electricity source.

We’re looking at the land that is used for solar farms in the UK, including how much land is likely to be used in the coming years. The benefits of repurposing land for solar farms are virtually unlimited.

How Solar Can Responsibly Use Land

The only way we can generate enough renewable energy to move away from fossil fuels is by investing in green energy infrastructure. While investment is needed, infrastructure must be as sustainable as possible with responsible development that accounts for wildlife and the environment around us.

Solar farms tick all the boxes. They allow us to repurpose land and utilise utility-scale solar panels that can be installed on less desirable land, including steeper slopes. Solar power is one of our greatest assets in the war against climate change.

It’s possible to responsibly use land to maximise the potential of solar power. Most solar farms are located on private land, requiring planning permission before construction to ensure the development is up to standard. This process typically takes several years but is one that organisations are campaigning to accelerate in a bid to increase the UK’s renewable energy capacity.

Responsible land use for solar farm developments can lead to a net positive for surrounding communities and help in our fight against climate change.

Solar Farms and Land Use in the UK

Solar farms in the UK are typically given planning permission for a 25-year period. After this time frame, the solar farm will be dismantled and the land repurposed unless an extension is granted following a re-application. The changes made to land when installing solar panels are reversible and time limited. The zoning classification of land doesn’t change when it is repurposed into a solar farm.

Newspaper headlines make it sound like solar farms are everywhere. Only 0.1% of all the land in the UK has ground-mounted solar panels on it. This figure is expected to only rise to 0.3% with the government’s solar energy plans. Comparatively, this equates to roughly 0.5% of farmland. For context, that’s half the land used for golf courses.

The UK’s solar farms currently have a cumulative capacity of 14GW with an estimated 9.6GW coming from ground-mounted solar panels. It’s important to provide context when discussing solar farms and land use. The UK is made up of 56% agricultural land with an estimated 70,000km2 used as pasture for animals.

Farming land isn’t the only potential option for solar farms; however, agricultural land is the most readily available in the UK. Even if every solar farm was built on agricultural land, the impact on the UK’s food production would be minor – if any.

Research into the potential of agrivoltaics shows that solar farmland can still be used for crops and livestock with little impact. Farming around solar panels can bring benefits to it. A four-year trial in Australia found that the wool of merino sheep was higher in quality with more produced due to the shelter the solar panels provided the sheep.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the UK’s food supply, posing the “biggest medium-to long-term risk’, according to DEFRA. The UK government is turning to solar power as a vital component in achieving its goal of net zero by 2050 and tackling climate change. Its recent energy security strategy included a pledge to increase solar power capacity to 70GW by 2035. The only way to achieve net zero and lower energy bills is by developing our green energy resources.

Why Land Should Be Repurposed for Solar Farms

The current cost of energy crisis is leading more people to accept renewable energy as the best solution. Repurposing land for solar farms means that more renewable energy can be produced locally, providing affordable and sustainable electricity to the local grid. Every 5MW of solar installed translates to enough electricity to power 1,515 homes each year with 2,150 tonnes of CO2 saved.

Solar farming is a win-win for landowners, sustainability, and the surrounding community. Repurposing unused farmland for solar farming is reversible and time-limited, providing farmers and landowners with a stable passive income source.

It’s becoming increasingly possible for land to have a dual purpose – continuing to be used for agricultural work while housing solar panels. Sheep and other animals can continue to graze between solar panels with plants and wildflowers planted beneath the panels to support biodiversity.

10,000mw of solar panels installed in the ground would translate to 0.1% of the UK’s land area. This volume of electricity capacity has the potential to power over 3 million homes across the UK. The other benefit of utilising land for solar farms is that it involves no moving parts and has minimal maintenance with no waste generated during use.

You can play your part in enabling the UK to achieve net-zero, tackle climate change, and reduce energy bills. Contact our team today to find out more about our land leasing programme to earn passive income and build a self-sufficient green energy industry.