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Most ‘overlooked’ benefits of solar revealed

Some of the most ‘overlooked’ benefits of solar panels include how it can be used to boost wildlife and its ability to be placed on contaminated land.

These were the findings of a peer-reviewed study in Nature Sustainability that suggests a framework for understanding and quantifying the benefits of solar energy, identifying 20 frequently overlooked advantages.

These benefits also include pairing solar panels with native plant restoration and placing them on large bodies of water such as reservoirs.

Solar energy is the fastest-growing source of power worldwide and according to the International Energy Agency, it could become the world’s largest electricity source by 2050.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Lancaster Environment Centre, from the Center for Biological Diversity in the United States, the University of California, Davis, and 11 other organisations.

Dr Alona Armstrong, senior lecturer in Energy and Environmental Sciences at Lancaster University, said: ‘As governments increasingly commit to renewable energy, they should evaluate and appropriately incentivise the synergies outlined in this study.

‘This would maximize solar energy generation potential while protecting, and potentially enhancing, our planet’s climate, air quality, water, land, and wildlife.’

‘Solar energy has way more benefits than most people imagine,’ added Greer Ryan, a renewable energy and research specialist at the Center and co-author of the paper.

‘We’re hoping utilities, regulators and legislators will now have a better sense of the importance of solar energy, which will lead to the expansion of rooftop solar, more community solar development and lower prices for everyone.’

Last month, a report from the Solar Trade Association (STA) argued that solar farms could offer a vital boost to Britain’s wildlife and rare species.

It said because solar farms can be in place for 30-40 years and require minimal human disturbance to maintain, there is potential for a range of conservation initiatives to be put in place.

These might include schemes such as planting hedgerows and creating wildflower meadows, as well as wetland development, have far-reaching benefits including biodiversity and habitat provision, flood mitigation, carbon storage, soil erosion mitigation and pollination for food provision.

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