SolarPower Europe launches a biodiversity and land-use toolbox for utility scale solar

27 October 2022


  • This new toolbox for the solar sector offers guidance on identifying suitable land for solar deployment, and the potential environmental opportunities and challenges of utility-scale solar projects.


  • The report showcases real-world examples of nature positive solar sites, including dual land-use project types like floating PV or agriPV. 


  • BirdLife, world-leading experts in the conservation of birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, acted as co-authors for the publication. 


BRUSSELS, Belgium (Thursday, 27 October 2022): Today, at the first annual Sustainable Solar Europe event in Brussels, SolarPower Europe launched its ‘Solar, Biodiversity, Land Use: Best Practice Guidelines’. These guidelines explores how responsible solar project development acts as a force for biodiversity protection, enhancement and restoration, while offering the solar industry comprehensive information on relevant EU-wide nature regulation.


Following the European Commission’s REPowerEU pledge to end Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, including a new EU solar target of 750 GWdc by 2030, the new  report provides support to the solar industry on how to achieve this ambition sustainably, with respect to land use pressures. The publication details key EU environmental legislation that seeks to protect Europe’s biodiversity and restore damaged ecosystems - including the landmark EU Nature Restoration Law. It also provides case studies from several EU Member States, highlighting how different EU nature rules are applied at national level and its relevance to solar. 


As the demand for renewables increases, the report offers a dedicated chapter exploring best-practice in identifying suitable land for utility scale solar projects. Key recommendations include prioritising the of use of artificial land, engaging with landowners and farmers on dual land-use agriPV projects, avoiding natural wetlands and forests, and considering artificial water bodies for biodiversity enhancement through floating PV. 


The report was developed through a series of workshops including a number of key actors in the biodiversity protection space, including BirdLife. Acting as co-authors of the report, and in their role as world-leading experts in the conservation of birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, BirdLife provided invaluable consultation to the publication of ‘Solar, Biodiversity, Land Use: Best Practice Guidelines.’


Ariel Brunner, Deputy Director and Head of Policy of BirdLife Europe, Central Asia, commented; “Solar farms are efficient & will play a key role in limiting global warming. If they are situated, designed, and maintained correctly, they can also offer an opportunity to restore biodiversity. This creates an ideal situation for tackling both the climate and biodiversity crises.”


Through each phase of a project, from design, through construction, to operation and decommissioning, these new guidelines offer a step-by-step guide of biodiversity and land-use considerations that solar developers should consider. 


To demonstrate how these considerations are taken forward, the report offers real-world case-studies. For example, the BayWa r.e. Spitalhöfe solar PV park in Germany, which is one of the first hybrid energy plants in the country and hosts flowering islands that increase the number of wild pollinators.


Similarly, Amarenco have pledged to invest in the restoration of natural ecosystems under its stewardship, through two different regenerative initiatives – the ECHO Portfolio and ECHO Territories. Among other features, the Portfolio includes funding site-specific programs focusing on micro forestry and soil regeneration on Amarenco sites, while Territories funds autonomous regeneration projects around regenerative agriculture and agroforestry.


Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe commented; “Solar is growing exponentially, and we are working to achieve a minimum 750 GW EU target by 2030. It is crucial that solar deployment is accelerated with robust commitments to safeguarding biodiversity. These guidelines offer the solar sector an invaluable toolbox to support nature conservation and enhance biodiversity.”


As part of the Sustainable Solar Europe event, SolarPower Europe launched its first annual Solar Flora and Fauna photo competition showcasing the best images of solar and nature thriving together. Winning the public vote, Lightsource bp’s scene of a hare enjoying its Wilburton utility-scale project is featured on the front cover of the first edition Solar, Biodiversity, Land Use: Best Practice Guidelines.


Intersolar Europe and SolarPower Europe  joined forces to establish the Sustainable Solar Europe conference. This new annual event provides the solar community with an opportunity to discuss the most critical topics on solar sustainability, and learn best practices.

Questions? Get in touch.

Bethany Meban
Senior Press and Communications Advisor

+32 492 97 82 48

A hare at Lightsource bp’s Wilburton site in the UK 


© Lightsource bp

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