Special Report

‘Public support for solar farms is solid’ report reveals

A recently released report by Solar Energy UK and Copper Consultancy, reveals a high level of public support for solar farms despite claims that residents are in opposition.

Solar Energy UK and Copper Consultancy launched the study: 2022: A Bright Future for Solar (Realising the UK’s Potential) to explore public attitudes to solar, which delivers a greater understanding of where public opinion stands. 

Some critics claim that residents don’t like solar farms in their area, but this survey shows such claims to be untrue and not based on hard evidence. The data from this report reveals a high level of public support for solar farms, with 56% of respondents supporting the development of large-scale solar projects in their local area compared to 25% in opposition.  

Crucially, public support for local solar farms is shown to increase over time, more than one in six people surveyed have become more supportive. Based on a total of 2003 respondents and a sample of 492 people living near large-scale ground-mount solar projects, the research provides insight into how respondents viewed minimising environmental impacts and multi-functional land use as amongst the key benefits of solar energy production.   

Solar farms are part of the British landscape 

Solar Energy UK, chief executive, Chris Hewett said: “Solar farms are now part of the British landscape, and this ground-breaking survey shows strong public support, from all parts of the country. It is especially good to see that people who live close to them become even more favourable over time.”   

“We understand that one top public concern is how a solar farm will impact local nature, which is why we are working with ecologists to develop best practices for land management and regular monitoring. The evidence so far shows a solar farm usually increases the biodiversity of wildflowers, pollinators and bird species.”  

Improved understanding of jobs that arise from solar projects 

Another finding demonstrates that 39% of respondents perceive public opposition to solar farms as the main barrier to development in their area. Yet this perception is proven by our data to be out of step with reality. This research also shows that there is some variation subject to various demographic characteristics such as age, region, and annual income. 

An improved understanding of the jobs, skills, and supply chain opportunities that arise from solar projects is necessary. Equally, the benefits of solar farms on biodiversity and local wildlife are significantly underestimated. But without awareness of these benefits, it will not be easy to rely on the strength of public support, which is needed to incorporate solar into the renewable energy mix and make net-zero systems a reality.  

2022 is set to be a historic year for solar 

Sam Cranston, director of energy infrastructure at Copper Consultancy, said: “2022 is set to be another historic year for solar energy in the UK as developers look to bring forward large scale sites in record numbers. Our research into public attitudes clearly shows widespread support for solar and, crucially, that this grows over time.”  

“The findings also show that developers and the wider industry can build advocacy even further by raising awareness of the physical and local benefits that solar projects offer, beyond their green credentials.”  

Despite high levels of support overall, the study finds there is potential to mobilise public esteem of solar farms even further, given that 56% of people are still unaware that solar farms can deliver on natural capital and biodiversity.