Environmental Impact of land-based solar-PV – MRes Scholarship


Environmental Impact of land-based solar-PV

Bangor University, School of Natural Sciences

Project ID: BUK2E092
Annual Stipend: £13,131
Application Deadline: 12th December 2022.

This KESS 2 MRes project focusses on the important topic of sustainable renewable energy generation, and specifically the environmental impacts of solar-PV farms on soil quality and biodiversity and other ecosystem services. The project is co-funded by KESS 2 and the largest solar developer in Europe, namely Lightsource bp (https://www.lightsourcebp.com).

Renewable energy generation is urgently needed to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar-PV offers a sustainable source of energy, and whilst solar panels can be fitted to roofs of individual homes, commercial and public buildings, solar-PV farms will also be needed to generate sufficient energy to meet demand from both residential and commercial users. There is an ongoing debate in Wales (and globally) about where solar-PV farms are best sited, as they can take up large land areas. There is therefore an assumption that they could potentially affect food supply. However, many solar farms sited on agricultural land continue to be used for agricultural use, most commonly for sheep grazing. One of the barriers to potential adoption of solar-PV farms is the potential misconception that solar-PV results in significant soil degradation which would decrease its agriculture land classification and future land price. However, there is little independent evidence for these claims. Furthermore, properly managed, any extended fallow period should enable recovery of soil health. There is also concern that solar-PV can result in loss of biodiversity, but there is now a growing body of evidence that solar farms boost biodiversity with substantial net gain being achieved across sites.

To assess the impact of solar-PV farms on soil quality and biodiversity, this novel project will explore the published literature, and conduct a soil sampling survey of land under a solar-PV farms of varying ages. This will be supported by a survey of land management practices during and after the development of solar-PV farms by the installation contractors and farmers/landowners, respectively. The successful student will therefore collect independent evidence of the impact of solar-PV farms and subsequent land management on soil health and biodiversity. The student will use this knowledge to develop a simple Soil Health Guide for implementing best practice management for solar-PV farms, resulting an output with real applied value in developing this sector.

The project will be based in the Environment Centre Wales building, in the School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University. You will be supervised by Prof Dave Chadwick and Prof Dave Jones and will be expected to liaise regularly with the industry partner, Lightsource bp.

This 12-month studentship will start on 3rd January 2023. For any enquiries, please contact Dave Chadwick (d.chadwick@bangor.ac.uk).

To apply for this studentship, please e-mail a CV, a degree transcript and a covering letter, along with one reference letter, to Prof Dave Chadwick (d.chadwick@bangor.ac.uk) and cc p.j.dowdney@bangor.ac.uk. The closing date for applications is 12/12/2022.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2 East) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.

Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in East Wales on University registration,  and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.