Watching the large-scale solar parliament debate yesterday, I was very saddened that solar developers were accused of falsifying information in advertising specifically with regards to the growth of grass underneath and around the panels. It was even insinuated that the grass could have been falsely added into the picture or the panels falsely added over the grass. I found myself in dismay, questioning if in fact the RT Honourable Members discussing this issue have actually visited a solar farm or is this information purely based on hearsay?
More worryingly, is this statement also a general consensus throughout the country? I believe so and I think we need to ask ourselves as an industry why?
Lightsource owns and operates the largest fleet of solar farms in the country and pictures of luscious green grass sitting underneath panels are integrated fixtures in our marketing and community consultation campaigns. I can only assume the same applies to most solar developers, yet this disconnect with public belief is still apparent. The irony of this whole debate is that the growth of grass is actually a significant line item cost on our land maintenance budget and, as a result, at Lightsource, we have implemented a grazing policy to encourage farmland diversification with landowners.
I can’t help ask the question, are we doing something wrong here?
We should be discussing key topics with communities during consultation like visual impact, ecology and grid connection not debating photosynthesis, glare or noise. Despite our best efforts on raising awareness, producing information packs and building relationships with local press we are still accused of falsifying our own evidence, photographic evidence even.
So maybe it’s time to hit the reset button and look at things from a different perspective. If I was a member of a local community, what would I think about a solar developer? We (large-scale solar developers) are in danger of becoming like that ‘annoying friend’ that would only call up if they wanted something and remain aloof for the rest of the time.
The more I think about this analogy the more it feels true. We are only interested in a community or area when we want to build a solar farm. Do we ever engage a community just because? No, why would we?
So here’s a challenging thought? What if, as the solar industry of Britain, we united and announced that for one day this year we will set aside doing deals, planning applications, lease agreements, grid assessments, and community consultations; and opened the gates of all our completed solar farms in the country with an invitation to the local community to simply drop in, have a chat, inspect the grass and measure the decibel levels of the inverters.
We have the knowledge, tools and experience to eradicate the common myths of solar; I feel that maybe it’s about time we started sharing this with everyone else. #nationalsolarday