For the last few years Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has been working with Heart of England Community Energy to create a haven for wildlife amongst the 55,000 solar panels which make up one of the largest community-owned solar arrays in the UK.
The land at Drayton Manor Farm on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon was taken over by DEFRA during the BSE crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s before being sold to the current landowner in 2013. As the land still could not be used for food or livestock going into the human food chain, a solar farm was a good use for it. Fast forward to 2017 and the land became host to a 45megawatt solar farm. A third of that is now community owned by Heart of England Community Energy, a not-for-profit community benefit society run by local volunteer directors.
Heart of England Community Energy uses surplus income generated by the solar array (after operating and finance costs) to support local charities and projects with a positive social and environmental impact. They also support initiatives to tackle climate change and poverty in developing countries.
We have been providing advice on how they can maximise biodiversity on the site. A number of approaches have been taken to achieve this, including dedicating large swathes of the site as wildflower meadows.
The wildflower meadows attract a huge range of wildlife including butterflies, bees, birds and mammals. In addition to the wildflower meadows an extensive land management plan has been implemented to ensure the protection and proper management of wildlife and vegetation on site.
Heart of England Community Energy also launched a community bond offer in October 2021 which will give local people an opportunity to get involved as investors in the enterprise.
In sharing this story Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is celebrating the work other organisations are doing to make space for nature, and not endorsing the investment opportunity. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust does not benefit financially from this scheme.