Solar Farm

How Peatlands Can Help Power Success

Scotland’s peatlands are a vital tool in the fight against climate change, they may only cover a fifth of our landmass, but they store 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2); twenty-five times more than all other UK vegetation types combined. In good condition, peatlands actively sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. Conversely, degraded peatland emits more CO2 than it removes, becoming a source of net greenhouse gases. Currently 80% of Scotland’s peatlands are considered damaged largely through historical mismanagement and drainage. The Scottish Government recognises this as an issue and has set ambitious targets for peatland habitat restoration with a goal of 250,000 hectares to be restored by the year 2030.

The release of the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework Four (NPF4) in February 2023 has given substantial weight to proposals that help tackle the climate & nature crises, reverse biodiversity loss and restore & protect peatland soils. NPF4 has drawn attention to the ability of renewable energy projects to act as an effective driver for largescale habitat restoration. Subsequently, a developer’s individual commitment to designing a renewable energy project that positively impacts its surroundings, is not only positive in terms of tackling the biodiversity crisis and global warming but can also increase the overall likelihood of successful consent by meeting the themes of national planning policy.

Locogen’s expertise

Locogen has a team of environmental and consenting professionals with considerable experience of delivering renewable energy developments in peatland settings. This has been most recently demonstrated in our successful consent of Benthead solar and battery storage project near Kilwinning, North Ayrshire with our partners Aukera Energy. The 63MW project on completion will be one of the largest solar schemes in Scotland, producing enough electricity to power 25,000 homes. Scottish Minster’s in their decision notice have placed great weight on the scheme’s environmental credentials, including the projects ongoing commitment to restoring degraded peatland habitat, helping to support the interests of the adjacent Dykeneuk Moss Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Conservation Area (SAC) which is designated for active raised bog habitat in favourable condition.

During the feasibility and design phase, Locogen’s environmental team in conjunction with specialist contractors have undertaken extensive habitat and peatland assessment – to assess both the proposals likely impacts and identify areas of conservation value within the development boundary. Due to commercial ground mount solar still being a relatively new concept in Scotland, there is a current lack of understanding on how ground mounted solar arrays affect peatland habitat over the long term. This is reflected in current NatureScot’s guidance which states that on a precautionary basis, habitat under panel areas should be considered as “permanent habitat loss”. Locogen, to combat this has adopted a method of identifying, avoiding and improving peatland habitats in order to satisfy statutory consultees and deliver on the themes of current planning policy.

Successful planning consent

In the case of Benthead, Scottish Ministers have recognised that while areas of carbon rich soils will be developed, the positive impacts from the avoidance of habitats of greater conservation value such as blanket bog and the improvement of degraded peatland habitats with the development boundary will likely outweigh any negative impact. It is a reflection on Locogen’s substantial expertise that the Benthead solar and battery project was approved in under eight months, considerably less than the average decision times for projects of a similar scale.

In terms of consenting prospects NPF4 gives a significant opportunity to deliver developments that positively impact the environment on many levels. As an industry, we can no longer rely on the ‘one size fits all approach’ when looking at project benefits. Locogen’s team of experienced consenting and environmental professionals specialise in creating tailored renewable energy developments that benefit their surroundings, meet the requirements of environmental policy and help tackle the energy crisis.

If we can help in successfully delivering your project, please get in touch with us.

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