Project for four new solar farms in Lincolnshire
The University of Lincoln is among a group of organisations which have joined a project to create four new solar farms in the county.
The people behind the scheme aim to build sites that will capture energy from the sun's rays while enhancing animal habitats and plantlife.
Burton Pedwardine, near Sleaford, will be the location of the first solar farm in the programme.
And it is hoped the remaining three will be installed elsewhere in North Kesteven and South Kesteven over the next five years.
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The partners of the project have been brought together by the Rapid Technology Transfer Group (RTTG), which says it is taking a pioneering approach by providing "much more than renewable energy".
Cameras at the parks will allow communities and schools to explore the wildlife from a "digital observatory", while weather stations and other sensors will feed images and data to homes and schools.
Fraser Key, a leader in the group, said: "Solar farm design is in a rut. Our initiative will use advanced designs that deliver ecological, educational and enterprise benefits as well as clean energy – not as a matter of chance but as a result of careful planning and management."
The University of Lincoln is being asked to help with assessments on how wildlife interacts with the equipment at solar farms – which use rows of photovoltaic panels.
Institutions in Sussex, Birmingham and Exeter are also involved in the project.
It is hoped the designs will be used as benchmarks for UK solar farms in future.
And if the four-site pilot scheme is successful, existing facilities could be upgraded to include some of the new features.
The RTTG also says it has 19 landowners across the country ready to work with the organisation to create similar parks.
Mike Marchant, RTTG co-ordinator, said: "We realised there is this rush to use renewable energy in the UK and it is becoming about two things – being carbon free and making money.
"They are both legitimate but they miss the point.
"We need to be looking at plant and animal health too, and in an agricultural context we have to make sure we don't take land out of production."
The Burton Pedwardine solar farm is close to becoming operational, while another of the sites is going through the planning process.
Plans for the remaining two are expected to be submitted to local authorities in December or January.