25 July, 2016
You wouldn't really expect to find animals in power stations, but believe it or not, our furry friends squeak, cluck and baa in delight over a bit of renewable energy...
We're not talking your seaside-ride donkeys... If we head down to the hills of rural Turkey, we'll find solar donkeys! Turkish herdsmen spend weeks up in the hills looking after their flocks, so they've got their traditional beasts of burden to carry solar panels with them! That way they stay in touch with their family and friends by charging their phones and connecting to the internet - pretty clever, huh?
The indoor pools for Whipsnade Zoo's one-horned rhinos may not look all that special from the outside... but take a look inside, and it's a totally different story. The warm swims the rhinos enjoy are in fact powered by a mixture of solar-thermal panels and a clever air-exchange system! And, at Hamerton Zoo in Cambridgeshire, the whole menagerie is wind powered. They installed two wind turbines in 2012, plus some solar panels too, meaning they now produce almost enough power to run the entire zoo!
Not really furry (in most cases), but renewable energy has offered farmers a neat way to make a bit of extra cash. Plenty of farms have been struggling financially, so generating their own power is a great way to reduce their electricity bills. Plus, they can sell their surplus power back to the grid and get a little budget top up!
Hydro turbines are also fabulous for the farms lucky enough to have rivers flowing through them, and solar panels mounted on the ground are great for those fields that aren't much good for growing.
More and more farmers are doubling up on their grazing land for solar parks. The panels are arranged on thin metal frames with plently of space underneath and in between the rows. And believe it or not, sheep and solar get on like a house on fire! Not only can they shelter under the panels when it rains (you can even see the flattened patches of grass where they've slept), their grazing also keeps the plants from getting too wild.
And it's not just the sheep... Alpacas love it too! There's even a solar farm in Cornwall that has chickens clucking around the panels... even the coops themselves have solar panels!
The grassy space beneath the solar panels, plus the fact that solar farms need to be securely fenced off, provides an amazing opportunity for nature to get on with buzzing and blooming undisturbed. Many solar farms work hard to create habitats for wildlife - like hedgerows for smaller animals to snuggle up in, and even bird and bat boxes too!
But it's the bees that get the really sweet deal here. Thanks to all the wildflowers that flourish around solar farms, they're the perfect place for a few beehives. Farmers rely on bees to pollinate their various crops anyway, and who doesn't want solar honey?!
Birds and Bats
Now there are plenty of examples of flying critters and wind turbines not getting along, with the birds and bats coming off rather worse... But not all is lost - many efforts are being made to make the turbines more bat friendly, and having conducted a spot of research, bat experts and the wind industry have discovered that slowing down the turbine's spinning speed in autumn when most bats fly by, seems to be the answer.
It seems like our four legged (and otherwise!) friends are loving the transition to the low carbon world, so let's all take a lead out of their books and embrace a renewable and clean future!
This blog was written by our pals at 10:10 - check them out here.