20 January 2022
Solar Energy UK and Copper Consultancy have launched ‘2022: A Bright Future for Solar’. ‘Realising the UK’s Potential’, a study into public attitudes to solar that delivers a greater understanding of where collective sentiment stands.
Some critics have claimed 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.
Our Chief Executive, Chris Hewett stated:
“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 practice for land management and regular monitoring. Evidence so far shows a solar farm usually increases the biodiversity of wildflowers, pollinators and bird species.”
Sam Cranston, Director of Energy Infrastructure at Copper Consultancy added:
“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.
Somewhat paradoxically, 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.
Ultimately, 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 won’t 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 A Bright Future for Solar: Realising the UK’s Potential, A Study into Public Attitudes to Solar’ is jointly delivered in partnership with Copper Consultancy.
Copper Consultancy is a communications, engagement and consultation specialist for infrastructure and development, taking projects from initiation through to operation.
Solar Energy UK represents over 256 member companies operating in the UK energy sector and beyond. In partnership with key players across the value-chain, Solar Energy UK is working to treble the UK solar capacity to 40GW by 2030.