Seeing solar more
in the round
What makes Paytherden special is that for the first time a solar farm is being developed in partnership with the RSPB, with the wildlife charity citing the project as an exemplar model for the solar industry when designing for biodiversity at scale.
Solar is the fastest growing energy source worldwide, growing globally year-on-year for the past five years and expanding by a record 38% in 2022.
When you see a UK field populated with ground-mounted solar panels you know it’s working hard to support a clean, secure, and sustainable energy mix.
Next year, Lightrock’s 49mw Paytherden Solar Farm should be operational in Devon. Recently granted planning permission, Paytherden will be capable of powering up to 15,000 homes, preventing 21,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually.
Clearly, Paytherden is great news for the planet and stable UK energy prices. But good infrastructure design today means seeing a much bigger picture, and when it comes to solar this includes making the most of opportunities to deliver widespread ecological and social benefits. What makes Paytherden special is that for the first time a solar farm is being developed in partnership with the RSPB, with the wildlife charity citing the project as an exemplar model for the solar industry when designing for biodiversity at scale.
So, introducing solar panels here across 170 acres of farmland presents an opportunity to support under-threat local species. For example, barn owls will be encouraged to nest on site; and holts and habitat established for otters. The banks of the neighbouring River Clyst will be improved for wildlife including water voles; and existing ecological corridors for reptiles, amphibians and small mammals enhanced.
LDA Design acted as lead consultant on the project and planner with responsibility for securing consent. Working closely with Lightrock, the RSPB and BSG Ecology to shape nature-positive proposals, LDA developed an extensive planting strategy featuring more than 600m of new hedgerows, in excess of three football pitches of woodland planting, plus four blocks of orchard planting. New wildflower meadows and tussocky grassland with wildflowers will attract pollinators and small mammals. New native-species hedgerows will include lower-level shrubs and tall hedgerow trees, providing more varied habitats and nesting opportunities for a more diverse range of birds.
Overall, this will result in significant biodiversity net gain of 22 percent, quite an achievement for an organic site. The approach also means the settings for nearby rural settlements, public rights of way, and heritage assets will be protected.
The approach for Paytherden demonstrates that broad-church collaboration is needed if we are to tackle the climate crisis, support nature recovery and create the future we urgently need to see. It’s a class act that we hope more developers and landowners will follow.