Solar farm sites across the UK could be used to replicate the natural habitats of threatened wildlife such as turtle doves and skylarks under a new scheme launched by bird charity RSPB.
The project, in collaboration with clean tech company Anesco, aims to boost wildlife at the firm's solar farms across England and Wales.
Wildflower meadow areas and seed-rich planting in the ‘unused’ margins of the farms and where tracks go between the panels will help boost insects such as bees and butterflies and provide food and nesting areas for birds, the RSPB said.
The scheme will reinstate habitats which have been lost in the face of agricultural intensification, hitting farmland bird species.
It is hoped that struggling species such as tree sparrows, which have seen numbers fall by 94 per cent in the last 40 years, turtle doves which have seen an 89 per cent reduction in numbers, lapwing (58 per cent fall) and skylarks (51 per cent fall) will be helped by the project. Butterflies, reptiles, mammals and amphibians will also benefit from the scheme.
The solar project will see the RSPB advising Anesco on providing for ‘priority’ species, those in most need of help, at its existing solar farms, in places ranging from Cornwall to Suffolk, Yorkshire and the Isle of Anglesey. Their advice also will also help to inform the plans for new solar projects.
The RSPB are open about their support for renewable projects. Last week they announced they had finished constructing a 100 metre high wind turbine that is set to start generating power at the charity’s headquarters.
Darren Moorcroft, RSPB head of species and habitats conservation, said: "It is an excellent opportunity to develop habitats for nature in need of our help, showcasing how a renewable energy business and wildlife conservation can be delivered in unison; whilst providing clean energy and sustainable development we can still continue to give nature a home."
He added: "We're interested in renewable energy because the threat of climate change is the biggest threat to nature and to people.
"The opportunity of this partnership is both mitigation and adaptation. The panels are helping us to reduce our carbon emissions and the habitat within the solar farms can create the places for priority species to live and survive and thrive."
Adrian Pike, chief executive of Anesco, said: "We will be maximising the positive impact that our sites have for local wildlife, while focusing on supporting those species that really need it."