13 September 2022

It’s a common misconception that renewable energy developments are harmful to biodiversity. The greatest danger to biodiversity – and humanity itself – is climate change. Renewable energy is the best solution to tackling climate change and achieving net zero.

We can use renewable energy to protect our biodiversity – with the right plans in place. Renewable energy is crucial in our fight to lower energy bills, protect the environment, and achieve the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050. When planned correctly, renewable energy developments can protect and promote biodiversity.

At Green Switch Capital, our renewable energy developments are mindfully planned with biodiversity in mind. Efficient developments, including solar farms, can protect our environment and prevent the worse consequences of climate change.

We’re exploring the role of renewable energy in protecting our biodiversity and getting to the bottom of common misconceptions around solar power.

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is all around us. The term ‘biodiversity’ refers to the variety of plant and animal life residing in a particular habitat. Examining biodiversity can be done on a global scale or a local level. Our planet and environment thrive when there is greater biodiversity of animal and plant life.

We’ve all heard of species going extinct and droughts occurring throughout the world. Biodiversity is one of the main casualties of climate change. The rise in wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather is destroying wildlife habitats and plant life.

Biodiversity is vital for maintaining native animals and plants, particularly those that can only thrive in specific climates. Everything from soil retention to seasonal temperatures can impact biodiversity.

Renewable energy developments are often accused of harming wildlife and animal habitats. The reality is that all energy resources will have an impact on the environment. What determines the effect of renewable energy on biodiversity is how and where the development is constructed.

Solar farms are a win-win solution. They produce renewable energy and can improve the biodiversity in the local area. At Green Switch Capital, protecting biodiversity is at the heart of our projects.

The Role of Renewable Energy in Protecting Biodiversity

Making renewable energy as efficient and beneficial to biodiversity as possible won’t be easy – but it’s not impossible. Renewable energy has a role to play in protecting the future of biodiversity. It begins with finding the right location.

The best location for renewable energy developments are ones that provide land to deploy solar panels as densely as possible to maximise efficiency. Croplands and grasslands are amongst the best for producing renewable power developments that can boost biodiversity.

It’s impossible to unlink renewable energy and biodiversity from each other. Both are vital for the planet’s future and to tackle climate change. Renewable energy is the best path for achieving net zero and the only way to meet our collective climate change commitments.

For renewable energy to achieve its highest potential, we need to understand the role it can play in protecting biodiversity. Marine biodiversity is a key test for this. Off-shore wind is an essential component of the UK’s net-zero strategy, but the ocean-based infrastructure can negatively impact marine biodiversity. This risk has to be balanced with more focus on solar farms and repurposing unused agricultural land.

Promoting renewable energy will help us achieve a net-zero grid and provide rising global temperatures and extreme weather that will severely impact biodiversity. We should see renewable energy as the solution to safeguarding our plants and wildlife.

How Solar Farms Protect Biodiversity

It’s a common misconception that renewable energy and biodiversity can’t go hand in hand. Recent research from Solar Energy UK proves otherwise. Its newest report shows how solar farms can play a role in reversing the UK’s declining biodiversity by enhancing animal habitats.

The outlook for Britain’s wildlife is bleak. 60% of species have been in decline in 2019 with 15% facing extinction. Solar farms can protect biodiversity by repurposing agricultural land that has been intensively farmed to nurture the surrounding habitats and environment. Repurposing agricultural land can boost biodiversity by regenerating the ground and improving soil health.

While solar farms may look like major infrastructure, only roughly 2% of the land is disturbed. The rest of the repurposed land can be used for boosting biodiversity by providing animal habitats and nurturing grasslands and meadows. Land used for solar farms has the potential to maintain sheep grazing, contributing to food production.

Converting unused agricultural land to solar farms can see it improve its wildlife population. Research from Lancaster University found that correctly managing solar farms can improve bumble bees by 400%.

The Environment Act 2021 now requires every Town and Country Planning Act development in England to deliver a ‘biodiversity net gain’ of 10% from November 2023. Solar farms are the ideal way to boost natural capital and achieve a biodiversity net gain.

Solar farms can be developed to protect biodiversity when there’s a sustainability plan in place and correct management. It’s possible to develop solar farms responsibly with a focus on promoting local species and improving land quality. Solar farms provide the potential to create a biodiversity net gain by restoring native habitats and ecosystems.

Repurposing Land for Renewable Power

The best way to produce renewable energy and protect biodiversity is by repurposing unused agricultural land. Several factors determine whether the land is suitable for renewable power systems. Developers will determine the climate condition of the land, including its access to sunlight. One of the most important factors is the land’s proximity to the grid.

Repurposing land already disturbed by humans means the surrounding ecosystem is maintained. Abandoned agricultural fields, brownfields, and rooftops are the ideal places for solar panels.

The only way we can achieve net zero and prevent a climate catastrophe is by scaling the UK’s renewable energy production at a rapid pace. Switching to carbon-neutral energy is beneficial to humanity and wildlife.

At Green Switch Capital, we’re committed to creating a net-zero future through renewable energy. We’re working with hundreds of landowners to help Britain achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. You can help us create a sustainable, self-reliant energy market by leasing your land for renewable power infrastructure.

Together, we achieve a ‘biodiversity net gain’ and create a better tomorrow. Contact our team to find out more about our land leasing programme.