Case Study

Landscaping and Ecological enhancement enabling works at Llanwern Solar Farm

In partnership with Next Energy Capital key landscaping, biodiversity and maintenance services were delivered to the largest subsidy free solar farm development in the country. Located in the heart of South Wales, Llanwern is a 75MW renewable energy project consisting of a quarter of a million solar panels which, from late last year has powered 15,000 homes saving 21,000 tonnes in CO₂ emissions each year. The site covers 350 acres.

The chosen site, much of which was on neglected agricultural grazing land, needed considerable work to enhance and deliver the biodiversity potential.

The land management and biodiversity enhancement plan at Llanwern sensitively covers all aspects of ecological and physical landscaping from initial site clearance to plant screening, reen management, ecological mitigation, wildflower meadow establishment and on-going grounds and hedge maintenance.

Hedges were significantly overgrown and were impeding the ditch and reen system, the infrastructure that earnt the Gwent levels its SSSI status. The project, agreed with all stake holders including NRW, involved 33,000 meters of hedge removal and or significant enhancement by reducing the height down to 1.8m. The objective was to remove the hedges from one side of the ditch where it had developed on both sides, and to lower retained hedges on the other side to allow light to get to the water, encouraging plant and wildlife diversity thus enhancing this SSSI. Hedges will now be cut on a three-year rotation and have already started to thicken up, increasing their suitability for nesting birds.

Key to the Llanwern project was habitat enhancement for a breeding pair of cranes. Land used by the young cranes has had an adapted management strategy implemented to protect the young birds with wildflower enhancement and crane crossing points.

The wildflower enhancement on site has resulted in 10ha of new wild flower meadow creation and the management of another 15ha of field margins around the site all to benefit local wild life and specifically the Shrill Carder bee, known to be in the area.

A positive environmental impact example on this site was the use of natural fencing and coir rope products to keep construction traffic away from the valuable ditch and reen systems. These natural products could then be used to form hibernacula’s and break down naturally, opposed to the use of poly rope and or expensive stock netting (cost saving of £120,000) that would then need to be extracted and removed from site / go to landfill.