5 Solar farms – discharge of planning conditions
CEC ecologists have carried out ecological assessments of approximately twenty proposed solar PV farms in the South-West.
In July 2011 CEC were contacted by Low Carbon Solar (now Inazin) to provide advice at five 5Mw solar PV farms which had already received conditional planning permission. A planning condition required ecological site enhancement using bird and bat boxes, advice was therefore required what type of boxes and where they should be located. CEC had not carried out the original ecological assessments at any of these sites.
The sites were all very varied, with hedges ranging from continuous lines of mature oak trees to low growing bramble and rank grass while some sites had field trees or streams. The exposure of the sites also varied considerably with the western most site having views of the sea while others were sheltered inland sites.
A CEC ecologist carried out a quick walk-over survey of each site to assess the opportunities for ecological enhancement. A brief report was produced with annotated maps and information sheets on different types of bat and bird boxes.
Several of the sites were very exposed and only had low growing vegetation along the Cornish hedges. These offered little potential for raptors, songbirds or bats. However there was normally a single feature such as a vegetated stream corridor or green lane along on side of the site that had potential and bat boxes were erected on invertor buildings close to these. Other sites had far more potential with raptor boxes (kestrel, tawny owl) erected in large oak trees and bat boxes in field and hedge trees.
Potential for other ecological enhancement was also noted, with one site having good connectivity to known dormouse populations, so dormouse nestboxes were erected in the hedges at this site. Another had a very large pile of dead wood. It was possible to move some of this to other locations within that site and also to two of the other nearby solar farms. This would provide new habitat for amphibians, invertebrates and fungus, which are all groups often overlooked.