BRILLIANT BROXTED SOLAR PARK

Win-win is one of those clichés that I try hard to avoid but I can think of no other term to describe the utterly brilliant Broxted solar farm which had its official opening today.

At the heart of the site on the old Stradishall airfield is an 150 acre solar farm which will provide the electricity to power 9,000 homes but it also includes open grasslands for grazing cattle, woodlands, hedgerows, and arable farmland all managed with a heavy emphasis on conservation and wildlife.

The project includes the implementation of the first systematic survey in Europe on the impact of solar panels on birds and botany.

skylarkCA98FVXC Charles Ryder, whose vision it was to    develop the solar farm from land on the wartime airfield, determined at the outset to implement an integrated strategy for the site. The solar panels have been sited off the ground so sheep can graze. Suffolk Wildlife Trust has done extensive surveys of the flora and fauna and suggested ways to manage the habitat to encourage the rare wild flowers and 80 different species of birds they found, including 45 species which appear on conservation lists – lapwings, skylarks, short eared owls. There are even areas where wild bird seed mixes are being crown as crops to provide winter feeding for thousands of birds.

The site is very well screened so it is not intrusive but we will all soon be able to keep an eye on it. In November, a new permissive footpath will be opening, so that the public can see the full extent of this very clever scheme, which I very much hope will become a blueprint for future solar farms elsewhere.