Built in 2014 by our partner, Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE), this 1MW project is located on the Chelworth Industrial Estate in Wiltshire and produces enough electricity to power 287 typical British homes.
The project has been fully functional for nearly two years now, steadily improving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the site.
What exactly can be seen on the Chelworth solar site today?
Great Crested Newts:
The conversion of natural grass and wetlands to agricultural use in recent years has had such a negative impact on the natural habitat of the great crested newt it has been designated one of the country’s most strictly protected amphibians. So you can imagine how delighted we’ve been to see its gradual return to the pond we installed at the Chelworth site, as part of WWCE and Mongoose’s commitment to increasing newt numbers through the provision of welcoming habitats.
Another visitor to the site has been the increasingly rare brown hare. Brown hare numbers have declined by more than 80% in the last century as a result of shrinking access to suitable habitats, so we have been delighted to witness its occasional forays to our Chelworth solar farm. In many parts of the country this once common mammal has become locally extinct and suffered an overall population depletion second only to the water vole. We are very pleased that they find Chelworth so enticing.
Damselflies, bees, bumblebees, butterflies and birds are also making use of the solar farm. Of course, as pollinators, the bees and bumblebees are very important to local biodiversity.There has been a dramatic decline in British wildflower meadows with 97% lost since the 1930s. The ultimate biodiversity goal for the Chelworth site is to allow to become one of the country’s richest wildflower meadows.
As you can see from the picture below, roe deer are also regular visitors to the Chelworth site and can often be spotted grazing around the panels. One of Western Europe’s smallest indigenous species of deer, the timid creature is naturally drawn to our site by the plentiful supply of food and shelter.
As a popular target for human hunters through the ages, they actually became extinct throughout much of Europe in the eighteenth century and had to be reintroduced to the UK in the 1800s, since when, thankfully, they have fared much better.
While our official policy is to discourage them from grazing on the site itself – as adorable as they are, they have a tendency to damage young trees and affect the nesting opportunities of some woodland birds and invertebrate communities – they simply leap our low fences and graze away to their hearts’ content, in relative safety and comfort. And who can blame them? As Cole Porter would perhaps have said, “I ask you please, don’t fence me out.”