Flintshire Council recently awarded planning permission for a 45.7MW solar farm on land next to Deeside Industrial Estate.

The 180,000-module site is predicted to generate enough electricity to power around 11,000 local homes over its 25-year lifespan, according to the developers, Swansea-based Compton Group.

The application process for the solar farm ran into some local objections, including the tenant farmer of the proposed site at the time. However, Atmos Consulting – who worked with Compton on the planning application – claims that the ecology chapter in the Environmental Impact Assessment had a strong influence over local councillors.

The companies developed a habitat management plan that they believe will help enrich local biodiversity around the site. The developers committed to planting a variety of seed mixes in between the rows of solar panels. In addition, 19 hectares of land has been set aside for ecological enhancements that will sit between the solar farm site and the nearby RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve.

The nearby Dee Estuary is considered a site of national importance for Bewick’s swans. The developer hopes that a more pro-active management of the crops and grasses on the site will provide a better habitat for the swans over the lifetime of the solar farm.

“Solar farms provide good opportunities for biodiversity enhancement, particularly for declining farmland birds and invertebrates,” said senior ecologist Lee Bagnall of Atmos Consulting.

Bagnall continued: “Developers fund the costs of habitat enhancement as well as producing clean energy. Given sympathetic and landscape and visual impact assessment planning as well, the case for solar farms seems to be compelling.

“This project has been a delight to work on, Compton engaged willingly with their responsibilities and the opportunities for habitat enhancement and community involvement; and the local RSPB contacts have shared their knowledge and expertise generously. We are confident that the plans we have developed will provide measurable ecological benefits to the site during the life of the solar farm.”