DO THEY TAKE LAND OUT OF FOOD PRODUCTION?
Where wheat and oilseed rape are primary crops, such as in parts of East Anglia, this has been the case. The NFU would prefer to see solar farms developed on poorer quality land, such as lowland sheep pasture or semi-brownfield sites, such as old airfields, but respects the right of farmers to make their own business decisions about the use of their land. Elsewhere, the NFU has found that farming can continue in and around the solar arrays. “If the solar panels are raised high enough above the ground, then with careful management sheep grazing can continue,” says Dr Scurlock. “The land hasn’t been lost, it’s just multi-layered. It’s like an orchard that has sheep grazing underneath, except in this case it’s a solar energy-capturing layer with sheep.” Dr Scurlock adds that even where agricultural land has been taken out of production, the impact is not as bad as if it were developed for housing. “Even where land is taken out of production, it’s only temporary, for the lifetime of the solar farm [around 25 years].”