STA’s 10 Best Practices For Responsible Solar Development

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The United Kingdom’s Solar Trade Association (STA) recently published guidance on the 10 best practices for solar development, guidance its members have committed to follow in building and managing solar farms. The guidance sets forth STA’s views on the best practices for siting, land use and community engagement:

1. Focus on non-agricultural land or land which is of lower agricultural value
2. Be sensitive to nationally and locally protected landscapes and nature conservation areas, and welcome opportunities to enhance the ecological value of the land
3. Minimize visual impact where possible and maintain appropriate screening throughout the lifetime of the project managed through a Land Management and/or Ecology plan (e.g., hedging to hide the view of equipment and non-farm fencing, maintaining hedging to an appropriate height and in a healthy order to encourage bird and animal life, replacing any dead or diseased screening, avoiding extensive views into the site from roads, public rights of ways and hillsides, developing a comprehensive land management plan to enhance ecology and manage the site for the duration, consider partnerships with conservation groups to protect and support vulnerable plant or animal species)

4. Engage with the community in advance of submitting a planning application (e.g., newspaper articles, flyers, local advertising, parish council meetings, knocking on neighboring doors)

5. Encourage land diversification by proposing continued agricultural use or incorporating biodiversity measures with projects (e.g., sheep grazing, bird nesting, bee keeping, pheasants, bat boxes, rids of prey and other small animals, flower meadows)

6. Do as much buying and employing locally as possible
7. Act considerately during construction, and demonstrate “solar stewardship” of the land or the lifetime of the project (e.g., avoiding soil compaction and damage to land drains, choosing panel mounting systems to suit site conditions archeology, etc., storing and replacing topsoil and subsoil separately and in the right order while trenching)

8. Seek the support of the local community and listen to their views and suggestions
9. Commit to using the solar farm as an educational opportunity where appropriate
10. At the end of the project life, return the land to the former use

The guidance also identifies possible exceptions to its best practice guidelines(e.g., large farms with a high volume of electricity self-consumption, for enhanced environmental benefits, for reasons of national interest, etc.).

Additional Sources: Renewable Energy World.com (Sept. 8, 2013)

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