Written Evidence submitted by Solar Energy UK (FS0065)


  1. What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labor shortages and global events? What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?


We are acutely aware of the multitude of pressures influencing food security and supply chains in the UK. Solar technologies present an opportunity to address some of these, as explained below.

Energy Price Crises

The energy crisis enveloping the country is a problem for farming and agricultural businesses as well as domestic consumers. Businesses could see their bills increase by 500% in 2022.[i] This could be a catastrophe for farmers, who are already facing major economic uncertainty. If farmers are unable to pay their energy bills, then many could go out of business significantly impacting food supply.

Solar farms can address this problem in two keyways:

First, they produce some of the cheapest electricity in history. Indeed, if Government is going to achieve 100% of electricity consumption to be generated by renewable energy by 2035, solar will undoubtedly need to play a key role. The UK’s 2022 renewable energy auction saw solar farms successfully bid to generate power at prices at least four times cheaper than gas.[ii] Without solar, energy prices would be even higher. This is important, because costs are increasing for the agricultural sector, just like everyone else’s

Second, farmers can receive direct rental and other income if they choose to host a solar farm on part of their land.[iii] Solar farms offer long term, stable revenue, in an uncertain economic environment. By providing financial security, solar is helping to keep farming profitable, and to allow for the continuation of traditional farming practices. Keeping farmers in business means securing food supply.

Case Study: An example of how the diversification of income provided by solar farms is supporting the agriculture in Wales

Mr and Mrs Rasbridge, landowners, and farmers in Wales, installed a 9MW and a 6.2MW solar farm on their land in Swansea.

“The addition of solar on our land has provided us with a stable income at a time when the agricultural industry is becoming increasingly challenging. Throughout the farming cycle you only receive income when you are selling produce, however through the addition of solar, we know we can rely on the revenue every three months. Installing solar has diversified our income whilst allowing us to continue farming. We have also seen wider benefits, for example an increase in the amount of wildlife on and around the farm, which is great to see.”


The ability to decarbonise assets, continue agricultural practices and diversify revenue are some of the reasons why solar projects are popular with farmers. Indeed, this was supported by Tom Bradshaw, deputy president of the National Farmers Union. “Renewable energy production is a core part of the NFU’s net zero plan and solar projects often offer a good diversification option for farmers.



Global Events – Climate change

The UK Government Food Security Report, published in December 2021, is explicit: “The biggest medium to long term risk to the UK’s domestic production comes from climate change and other environmental pressures like soil degradation, water quality and biodiversity.

The report quantifies this risk, noting that under a medium emissions scenario, climate change could reduce the proportion of ‘Best and Most Versatile’ agricultural land from a baseline of 38.1% to 11.4% by 2050. This would mean a reduction in the UK’s prime agricultural land of almost three quarters. The evidence is already available: for example, the drought of 2022 is expected to cause losses of 10-50% for some crops, such as potatoes. [iv]This clearly demonstrates the threat, which solar farms reduce because they generate near-zero carbon energy. Climate change causes crop failure. Solar farms help address climate change, and so improve the UK’s food security.[v]

Warmer temperatures and extreme weather patterns caused by climate change are impacting growing seasons. The evidence is already available: for example, the drought of 2022 was expected to cause losses of 10-50% for some crops, such as potatoes., with large volumes killed off in the drought forcing farmers to start feeding animals first cut silage which is not normally fed until the early autumn. This clearly demonstrates the threat, which solar farms directly address through the reduction of carbon emissions by generating near near-zero carbon energy. By helping to address climate change, solar farms are therefore helping to defend UK and global food supply

Biodiversity Decline

Well designed and well managed solar farms can deliver a variety of ecological enhancements, including new wildflower meadows, the planting and infilling of hedgerows, orchards and woodlands, and the creation of wetland features, to name a few. Planting wildflower meadows provides habitats for pollinator species such as bees and flies; research from Lancaster University shows that land on a solar farm managed for wildflowers rather than grassland can boost bumblebee numbers by up to four times.[vi]

The addition of wildflowers and the lack of disturbance on a solar farm makes them good sites for apiaries, which can also boost pollination on adjacent agricultural land, increasing crop yields and supporting resilient UK food systems.

  1. How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be struck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit?

If the UK is to reach net zero by 2050, Government must recognize the importance of multi-functional land use – land that can be utilized for more than one purpose. Ground mounted solar projects offer the opportunity to deliver for more than just clean green energy generation but also support increased biodiversity and the continuation of some agricultural practices.


Solar site managers can collaborate with farmers and landowners to manage grasslands for both solar farms and livestock grazing (e.g., sheep). Sheep help to graze around the panels itself, promoting optimal management for wildlife with no use of herbicides. Further, studies have shown that grassland that is managed with grazing typically has a higher carbon sequestration potential than that which is mowed.[vii]

In addition, the extended fallow period enables the recovery of soil health, addressing the degradation of many years of ploughing arable land.




A growing body of scientific evidence shows that well-designed and well managed solar farms can support wildlife habitats and meaningfully contribute to achieving local and national biodiversity targets.

Solar farms typically disturb less than 2% of land with infrastructure, allowing the remainder of the site to be set aside for ecological enhancements to support biodiversity. Whilst there is no-one-size-fits-all approach due to the soil types, topography and climate of solar farms, there are some easy to achieve, cost effective opportunities which deliver significant ecological gain that can be applied to most solar farms:

Regular monitoring and surveys have typically shown increases in botanical diversity with corresponding growth in numbers of varieties of bumblebees, birds and butterflies as well as mammals such as brown hares and a range of invertebrates.


Case Study: Example of solar farm delivering biodiversity benefits

The graph below shows Sawmills solar farm a 6.6MW project on a 29ha site in Devon which was commissioned in 2015. It was developed and designed by the team behind Eden Renewables, is operated by Belltown Power and is owned by Foresight Solar Fund. Previously arable land used mainly for growing oats, the site was designed to promote biodiversity, with the Landscape and Ecological Management Plan (LEMP) focused particularly on providing habitats for declining species including the rare cirl bunting. Enhancements include sowing winter bird seed mix, native meadow seed, creating rough grassland, planting new hedgerows, installing bird and bat boxes and hosting beehives. Wychwood Biodiversity has advised on ecological enhancements and has carried out annual monitoring from 2015 to 2021, focusing on three indicator groups: botany, selected invertebrate pollinators, and breeding birds. The seven years of monitoring have seen overall gains in all three groups across the site. The most recent surveys in April to July 2021, showed the highest botanical diversity recorded to date, which in turn is likely to have influenced the highest invertebrate diversity and abundance. Seven bird species of conservation concern were observed, including the nationally rare cirl bunting which has been seen several times on site during breeding bird surveys.

Chart, bar chart, waterfall chart

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The industry continues to be responsible stewards of the environment, through the release of a standardized approach to ecological monitoring on solar farms. This seeks to encourage all solar farms in the UK to use the same surveying methodology to monitoring ecology. This has been piloted across the summer of 2022, with a full analysis expected to be available in Spring 2023.[1]


[1] Solar Energy UK Guidance: A Standardised Approach to Monitoring Biodiversity • Solar Energy UK


September 2022

[i] ]https://www.cornwall-insight.com/press/businesses-could-see-energy-bills-increase-fivefold-in-october/

[ii] https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-record-low-price-for-uk-offshore-wind-is-four-times-cheaper-than-gas/

[iii] It should be noted that an additional economic challenge for UK agriculture, and something which is causing food insecurity, is the labour crisis in the sector. Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in March 2022 that it had found “clear evidence that labour shortages have badly affected the food and farming industry - threatening food security [...and…] causing crops to go unharvested and left to rot in fields.” See https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/9580/documents/162177/default/

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/12/mass-crop-failures-expected-in-england-as-farmers-demand-hosepipe-bans?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

[v] Solar farms produce near zero-carbon electricity. See https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-lowcarbon-footprints

[vi] https://solarenergyuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/NCBPG-Solar-Energy-UK-Report-web.pdf

[vii] Ibid.