The Solar Bee Project is not only about honey bees; biodiversity is also a core aim. Honey bees are not endangered, but encouraging an awareness and provision for these well-known and much-loved insects provides a focal point for wider biodiversity challenges. The site at Berwick is valuable for its low intervention and lack of disturbance. One criticism of solar farms is that food-producing land is taken out of the system to be covered in panels, but often its the case that land that has been intensively farmed for many years requires so many inputs to produce food, the benefits are minimal, and with the soil left unturned the carbon is sequestered, even more so if it is grazed and the land used to produce sheep rather than annual crops.
The sun and shade on the ground around the panels also creates differing habitats for insects and plants, and it’ll be interesting to watch these communities develop over time. Constant disturbance is anathema to wildlife, and while a degree of management is desirable to allow access and appreciation, the large areas that are left unmown and natural are a wonderful antidote to the frequent passes of strimmers and weedkiller for the sake of tidiness. Just today I drove down the dual carriageway and what must amount to a fair few acres of wild grassland on the central reservation have been shorn to nothing in a matter of hours; what happens to the mammals and birds and insects that have enjoyed the refuge and nourishment in the shoulder-high vegetation?
So, allowing a sense of stillness on a site which is also producing energy is a stark contrast to the degradation of habitat caused by fossil fuel extraction, and I wonder if certain species will start to benefit from our solar farms home in the same way that our farmland birds used to enjoy the rhythms of seasonal rural agriculture. Nature loves a niche.
The hives are doing well, growing slowly but steadily.
Here is a short video of the site, with Whitethroats singing out from the hedges and fruit trees, and a Buzzard soaring overhead.