Wednesday 2 November 2016

Alex Laws, research student

A research student is calling on solar farm operators to help provide him with the data he needs to determine whether solar farms are an efficient use of land and what impact they have on the agricultural sector.

Solar farms have been the subject of many political debates over recent years, not just about whether they significantly contribute to solving our energy problems, but whether they compromise food production by taking away valuable land.

Alex Laws, from Moulton College, an affiliate of the University of Northampton, has generated a survey aimed at farmers and solar farm operators to gather important data to help address these issues. He is working in collaboration with Lightsource Renewable Energy Limited and supported by the Elizabeth Creek Trust.

Alex said: “The development of solar farms often faces challenges from local communities and interest groups concerned about the preservation of landscape amenity and farming tradition. There has also been political opposition to solar farms as detractors prefer to support commercial rooftop and domestic markets.  The perceived risk of solar farms is that they potentially threaten food security; however the solar industry is persuasive in its argument that large scale solar farms accommodate not only the continuity of farming activity, but may bolster supporting and regulating ecosystem services, including biodiversity.

“Data on solar farms gathered by Government departments largely rely on voluntary returns and offer no insights into the effects of solar farms on productivity or local biodiversity. The data we require needs to be gathered at field-scale to gather meaningful results. This is why it is important that we reach out to solar farm operators, landowners, and developers to provide us with the information we need to build a better picture of how solar farms are managed in practice, and how the relative success of management can inform future development.”

The Farming the Solar Farm Survey is open to anyone directly involved in the management of a solar farm and takes between 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

For more information on this research project and survey please contact Alex Laws at mphil001@students.moulton.ac.uk

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