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Solar farms ‘no threat to food security’

Solar Energy UK 
15 May 2024

Solar Energy UK has welcomed today’s parliamentary statements on solar energy as confirmation that existing land use policies will continue to provide stability as the sector expands.

The only significant change announced by Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, concerned the perceived accuracy of soil quality grading.[1] The Government intends to address this through supporting independent certification of assessments by developers. This should help avoid disputes over which areas are subject to planning guidelines on higher-quality agricultural land.

Both Coutinho and the Prime Minister’s broader comments on food security appear to be directed at a small minority of anti-solar Conservative backbenchers, rather than decision-makers in local councils.

The solar industry will continue to follow established principles and looks forward to the publication of the government-industry Solar Roadmap, which will light the way towards adding more than 50GW of solar capacity over the next decade. It is expected in the coming weeks.

“Solar farms take up a tiny fraction of the country, which will still be the case in 2035 when the Government expects us to have four times current solar generation capacity.[2,3] They are no threat to food security; they never have been and never will be. In fact, it’s the opposite,” said Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK.[4,5]

“According to Defra, the main threat to food security is climate change, which is what solar farms are there to fight.[6] Furthermore, without solar farms, hundreds of traditional farming businesses would have gone to the wall, unable to produce food without the security of a reliable income,” he added.

A key factor of the new Food Security Index is the cost of energy.[7] By the Government’s own figures, solar farms are the cheapest source of electricity, another way in which they are contributing to food security, decarbonisation and the national interest more broadly.[8]

Solar farms offer multiple simultaneous uses of land. It is common for agriculture to continue after a solar farm is built, typically through the grazing of sheep. Solar farms can also offer significant benefits to nature: addressing climate change and energy security through cleaner, cheaper, homegrown generation, as well as restoring natural habitats, on the same land.[9]

Solar farms are demonstrably popular, according to both government and independent surveys. [10,11] Another survey by Climate Barometer demonstrates that the public and members of parliament vastly overestimate opposition to their development.[12]

[1] Solar and protecting our Food Security and Best and Most Versatile (BMV) Land

[2] British Energy Security Strategy

[3] Factcheck: Is solar power a ‘threat’ to UK farmland?

[4] Solar Farms & Food Security: The Facts

[5] Ground mounted solar farms and agricultural land: The Facts

[6] United Kingdom Food Security Report 2021

[7] Food Security Index 2024

[8] Large-scale solar provides cheapest power, says Government report

[9] Wildlife found thriving on solar farms

[10] Solar farms more popular than ever but myths threaten ability to tackle climate and ecological disaster

[11] DESNZ Public Attitudes Tracker

[12] Climate Barometer Tracker 22nd November 2023: The public and MPs overestimate opposition to local solar

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Editor’s notes:

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Gareth Simkins, Senior Communications Adviser | |