Truss was criticised by the solar sector during her leadership campaign for suggesting the development of ground-mount solar was at odds with food security. Image: UK Government (Flickr).

Solar Energy UK together with 18 environmental organisations have called on Prime Minister Liz Truss and her government to back solar power.

In an open letter published yesterday (28 September), the groups highlighted the role solar can play in the energy and cost of living crises. 

The letter follows Truss dubbing solar farms “paraphernalia” in a speech during her leadership campaign. At the time, she – and fellow leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak – suggested that solar farm development was at odds with food security.

At the time, there was a strong reaction from the industry, keenly refuting her claims and highlighting that if every solar farm currently put forward was built, this would still account for less than 0.4% of the UK’s agricultural land and 0.28% of the UK’s entire land area.

Solar Energy UK’s letter this week looks to highlight that far from being in opposition with food security, solar can be a boon to the agriculture industry. Farmers are able to benefit both from rooftop and ground-mount installations, providing additional revenue sources that can be invaluable amidst the cost of living crisis, for example.

Additionally, well designed solar farms can boost biodiversity, helping to support thriving wildlife habitats. Sheep can often also graze around the panels too.  

To support the responsible development of solar projects that support biodiversity, Solar Energy UK has developed a series of guidance documents. This includes its Natural Capital Best Practice report, developed in collaboration with the National Farmers’ Union, ecological consultants and the higher education sector.

This guidance has been endorsed by Natural England, the government’s advisor for the natural environment in England.

Solar Energy UK has also published a land use briefing that details the benefits of solar farms to the UK’s agricultural sector.

“The solar industry is a natural partner for countryside management, and I would be delighted to accompany the Prime Minister on a visit to one of the UK’s many excellent solar farms,” said Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett.

“She can see for herself how their affordable, clean electricity will help to power the UK out of the cost-of-living crisis.”

The open letter follows Labour Party leader Keir Starmer announcing a plan to triple solar in the UK as part of his Green Prosperity Plan.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool he confirmed the party would bring in a zero-carbon electricity target of 2030 if elected, highlighting the role solar would play in such a system alongside moves to double onshore wind capacity, quadruple offshore wind, and see investment in tidal, hydrogen and nuclear.

The commitment was welcomed by Solar Energy UK along with other industry groups.

“The REA welcomes the Labour Party’s plan for clean power which includes targets to deploy numerous renewable energies and stop new oil and gas licences,” said Frank Gordon, director of policy at the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA).

“Renewables represent great value for money and rapid deployment compared to alternatives.

“The urgent change we need to see to address the energy crisis and energy security requires radical intervention, therefore the REA welcomes Labour’s ambition and looks forward to working with all political parties to find effective solutions to the energy crisis.”