Southill Solar lies on 45 acres of Grade 3b agricultural land owned by the Cornbury estate, sandwiched between the railway, the road and a substation.
This is in a truly beautiful area of the Cotswold countryside. At the heart of our plans for Southill is the need to create an attractive site that enhances biodiversity – doing good for local plants and wildlife.
We’re lucky to be working with the UK’s leading ecologist specialising in solar farms, Dr. Guy Parker. Guy developed and is implementing a bespoke landscape and ecological management plan for the site. This will ensure that wildflowers, bees and butterflies flourish on the land.
Read Guy Parker's blog post to get a full update on land management in 2017.
See what Guy says about the opportunities for biodiversity on the Southill Solar site - and how we're taking a piece of fairly average agricultural land and turning it into something highly productive.
Taking care of the land - our work on the site
- We’ve enhanced the hedgerows that border the field by planting gaps with a range of shrubs to provide food and shelter for farmland birds.
- To provide food and habitat for hares, reptiles and nesting bumble bees, we're developing wide field margins of tussocky grass to around the whole boundary of the site.
- We sowed a wildflower meadow – one of Britain’s rarest and most valuable habitats – in the grassland around the site. This will be a home for rare chalk-loving plants and attract a wide range of insects, birds and mammals. We inherited a small wild flower meadow at the very north of the site which is estimated to be at least 20 years old, and every summer is abuzz with bumblebees and butterflies. We're working to spread this meadow across the north of the site.
- Beneath the solar panels we’ll establish a traditional grazing mix of fine grasses and wild flowers. To make sure the solar panels aren’t overgrown, we’ll use sheep to graze the wildflower meadow. The sheep will be removed through the summer months to allow wild flowers to bloom and set seed.
- We have planted our orchard - 60 fruit trees, including apple, pear and nut. This will provide fruit to the community as well as food for wildlife.
- Our bird expert has identified 6 pairs of nesting skylarks and 48 species of bird overall. We seeded part of the site with wild bird seed mix, to help resident linnets and yellowhammers.
- We will produce our own honey, and have now established our bees in a special solar beehive. Read more about this and take a video tour of the beehive.
The site will also save around 2,372 tonnes of carbon a year, or approximately
60,000 tonnes over the lifetime of the project – helping in the fight against climate change.
How we minimised the visual impact of the site
The Southill Solar team have worked really hard to minimise the visual impact of the solar panels. Our first plans showed that the farm would be too visible from the road, so we changed those and reduced the area. It now lies in a fold of land, low down in the fields.
Our innovative ‘Bring Your Brolly Day' – for which our landscape architect Charlie Clews won a national award – showed that the visual impact was much less, and the county council gave us planning permission.
"I love that this work has raised awareness of the role of the landscape architect with the community who now see the value of what we do, this was great and also fun!'
Noel Farrer, President of the Landscape Institute