A robust habitat survey at an early stage in project planning and design can deliver significant benefits to a project. A habitat survey, often described as a phase 1 survey, provides a firm foundation for a project and helps to ensure that significant ecological constraints can be identified at an early stage. Early identification helps to reduce the risk of costly delays later during the planning and construction phases. Habitat surveys also form the basis of sustainability assessments and provide a baseline upon which the performance of ecological mitigation measures can be measured.
How we can help
A Phase 1 habitat survey is often required at the start of the planning application . We supplement this assessment with criteria from UKHAB which provides a more complete picture on habitat management and structure. From this information we then work with our clients to advise and implement any measures that are required for planning permission. We also carry out Invasive Plant, hedgerow and Phase 2 National Vegetation Classification surveys (NVC).
General habitat surveys can be completed at any times of year but are best completed during the growing season between April and September. For certain habitats and regions seasonally specific surveys can be necessary.
Whether specified within management plans as part of biodiversity audits or to get a better understanding of the assets, we have now monitored over 100 different solar farms across the UK! From the Isle of Wight to Scotland from Northern Ireland to the Isle of Sheppey we monitor solar farms across the country. Looking at small 1.8MW to 49.9MW sites, from reclaimed quarries and capped landfill sites, to solar farms on peatlands and surrounded by woodland, ex arable, ex pasture ex race track we have seen the full array.
This gives us valuable insight into the solar landscape, enabling us to better design in mitigation or enhancements during the preconstruction stage, enhance biodiversity on constructed arrays and monitor them throughout their lifetime.
To get the most from this monitoring we have developed a standardised methodology which looks at the overall diversity of the site and management success. Where sites have more detailed or targeted monitoring requirements, such as wax cap surveys, bat surveys, great crested newt or skylark surveys, we do them as well. This has enabled us to collect a large dataset which is being used to further the understanding of the impacts of solar farms on biodiversity and how best to manage them to both meet the principal needs of energy generation but also maximise its biodiversity value. To this end we work with various Universities and Solar Energy UK on several research projects and the preparation of best practice guidance.