A 'go-to' guide for the UK's solar park community allowing them to qualify and, where possible, quantify and value the ecosystem services of current and planned parks, is planned.
Lancaster University and the University of York are collaborating with the solar park community (civil society, policy and industrial partners) to deliver the Solar Park Impacts on Ecosystem Services (or SPIES) Project.
The primary output of the SPIES project will be a succinct and accessible decision-support tool to assess the impacts of solar parks on 'ecosystem services' -- an array of services provided by the natural world that benefit people such as reducing flood risks, providing homes for protected species and carbon storage.
With input from the solar park community, the SPIES tool will assist the decision making process of park development and management. For example, what the optimal management of vegetation and site boundaries is.
"It is important that we assess the positive impacts of solar parks beyond low carbon energy to ensure that we are gaining all of the potential benefits," says Richard Randle-Boggis, a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University. "Assessing ecosystem services will also help reduce any negative impacts."
To help the project team understand the impacts of solar parks on ecosystem services, they are asking members of the solar park community to complete a short survey (available here: https://goo.gl/5pjJsz).
"The scope of the tool will help park owners and developers make decisions that will benefit ecosystems and, in turn, the environment and society," explained Mr Randle-Boggis. "This can, of course, assist with planning, and it has many benefits for developers such as corporate social responsibility impacts. The main focus however is environmental/ecosystem protection."
Research Fellow at Lancaster University Dr Alona Armstrong added: "The solar park community will have invaluable data essential for helping us develop the decision-support tool. Every response will contribute towards delivering a tool that will ultimately benefit new and existing parks."
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