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The positive influence of solar parks on biodiversity

Solar park Moerdijk is the location for groundbreaking research into optimizing the positive influence of solar parks on biodiversity (especially insects) of the rural area.

Shell Sustainable Energy focuses on developing and rolling out sustainable energy projects to contribute to the energy transition as part of the climate challenge. In addition to this task, stopping the decline and restoring biodiversity is also one of the major societal challenges at the moment. The Delta Plan on Biodiversity has recently been drawn up for this, including by the Naturalis Center for Biodiversity in Leiden. SMARTLAND landscape architects is engaged in both sustainable energy projects and projects related to biodiversity recovery. It has brought the two bodies together in an attempt to let these social developments benefit from each other.

Solar projects in the landscape are experiencing the necessary resistance and are better accepted by social added value such as biodiversity. Biodiversity is deteriorating, particularly in the case of very intensive and monofunctional agriculture. When energy production is realized as a function of the landscape, better opportunities for biodiversity arise.

By explicitly linking both tasks, a strong win-win situation is created.The starting point here is that solar parks, compared to intensive agricultural areas, offer excellent opportunities for this due to the absence of fertilizer, pesticides and deep drainage. The basis for this is good undergrowth under the panels as a food source for many insects. This is supplemented by special nesting facilities under the panels, natural shielding edge solutions around the park and spatial-visual landscape elements in and around the park. This allows many species to settle and spread, such as the sand bumblebee and the feather foot bee.

The research in Moerdijk focuses on undergrowth. For optimal undergrowth, natural situations comparable to the special microclimate in solar parks have been sought. Forests, with their shady environment, but also with their sometimes flowery vegetation in undergrowth and open spaces form these natural references. From a variety of natural forests you can put together a seed mix of shadow loving flowering plant species, which are used by a wide range of bees, bumble bees, gliders and butterflies.

In this research, different seed mixes are tested for their growth, flowering and significance for insects. Different seed mixes are tested in 8 clusters of 8 test areas of 20x20m. Naturalis biologists monitor development using both standard and advanced methods.

Not only are the growth and flowering monitored and insects caught during regular field visits, they also use advanced cameras and automatic identification software.The research in Moerdijk will run for a year for the time being. This may possibly be extended to a few years, during which some additional positive measures can also be tested.

The results of the research will be applied in various Shell solar projects that are currently being prepared.

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