33MW Whinfield Solar Farm receives planning approval. Image: Lightrock Power.

Lightrock Power has receivedplanning approval for its 33MW Whinfield Solar Farm in Durham from both Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council.

The project will incorporate a number of biodiversity features, enabling the solar farm to increase the sustainable profile of the solar farm. Construction of the site is expected to begin in 2023.

Whinfield Solar Farm will retain and enhance hedgerows and create grassland throughout the area to boost habitat opportunities for various amphibians and reptiles. The project will also utilise ground-mounted solar allowing sheep to graze amongst the panels so as farming activities can continue.

This particular project has had its biodiversity boosted via a collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This partnership had been agreed in late 2021 and saw the RSPB advise Lightrock Power on how to achieve a 20% biodiversity net gain on its solar farms.

As per the partnership, the biodiversity net gain is being achieved through sowing wildflowers, cutting holes at the bottom of fences to create ‘hedgehog highways’, gathering cuttings of wood into piles to give a home to invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, putting up bird and bat boxes and platting new trees and hedgerows. All of these will be used in the Whinfield Solar Farm.

Lightrock recently secured planning permission for a solar plant in East Devon, after the receival of approval from the District Council’s planning committee. The 49.9MW Paytherden solar farm received support from the local community with more than 200 messages on the council's planning portal.