Maximising biodiversity enhancement at UK renewable energy generation sites

   Faculty of Natural Sciences

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  Dr I Oliver  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

To meet climate change pledges and keep in line with Sustainable Development Goals, solar and wind power are becoming increasingly important components of the UK’s future energy supply plans. This has led to solar and wind ‘farms’ increasing in number and scale. However, at present very little is known about how such renewable energy generation sites may impact biodiversity, and nor is it understood how different management options could be implemented to enhance biodiversity and thus achieve a ‘win-win’ at such sites (i.e. clean energy production and biodiversity enrichment). The Low Carbon Energy Generation park (LCEG) installation at Keele University includes both solar and wind energy capture and is an ideal location to investigate biodiversity implications and enhancement opportunities at such sites.  

Using an experimental plot approach within the LCEG renewable energy site solar farm, this project aims to evaluate the plant and invertebrate biodiversity enhancement potential of different wildflower seed mixtures compared with a ‘wild’ control option. Across multiple seasons biodiversity assessments employing plant survey techniques and invertebrate methods, such as pitfall traps, pan traps, sticky traps and within-soil measurements (earthworm and microbe evaluations), will be carried out in order to develop biodiversity optimisation recommendations for future management of such sites. Impacts of wind turbine vibrations on earthworms will also be investigated.  

 A further aim of the project is to evaluate small mammal diversity at the LCEG site, including bats and ground-dwelling small mammals (with bat surveys conducted using a range of acoustic detectors and meters, and ground-dwelling mammal surveys employing camera traps and Longworth traps).  A final aim of the project is to compare biodiversity at the Keele University LCEG site with that at two other solar sites within the UK Solar Network at which comparable measurements will be conducted, so enabling development of widely applicable best management practises that optimise biodiversity at renewable energy sites. 

Please quote FNS_IO August 23 on your application.

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Closing date: 4th September 2023.

Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

100% tuition fees for 3 years. Stipend for 3 years at UKRI rates 23/24 stipend £18622 per annum.
Source of funding: Faculty of Natural Sciences, Keele University