Flower Power Solar Farms Help Save the Bees
This image is a play on solar panels and wild flowers, and does not reflect the solar farm project mentioned in this blog post.
Pollinator-friendly solar projects have been launched in 20 states, according to the Center for Pollinators in Energy. The purpose is to strengthen renewable energy and expand healthy natural habitats. Developers would like this plan to become a nationwide trend, where solar farms create habitats for buzzing bees and butterflies, whose numbers are dwindling, in an effort to offset habitat destruction.
There will be at least three new pollinator-friendly solar projects with pollinator habitats in Indiana this year. This is such good news, in a state where some areas depended on dirty coal for electricity for over a hundred years… cities like Logansport, where the new $19 million 80-acre solar farm will provide just under 10% of the city’s energy with solar panels and wildflowers.
A large part of the bee, butterfly, fly and beetle populations have been decimated in recent years due to habitat loss and exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides. The general range of honeybee loss annually in the USA for several years running is around 30%. These pollinators contribute to human food crops and it is said every third bite we eat is thanks to a honeybee.
This 2:29-minute video does not focus on pollinators but shows what the 80-acre solar farm will look like when it is completed.
Brock Harpur, an entomologist at Purdue University, says it is exciting to be able to do two things at the same time—save bees and use solar energy to improve the environment. The more solar sites are created with pollinating plants like this one, the greater benefits will be made for bees and butterflies.
The solar industry is booming, and solar installation is expected to be the fastest growing job in coming years. The Logansport project was announced during National Pollinator Week and is being completed by Inovateus Solar. Other pollinator-friendly companies are Emergent Solar Energy, Solential Energy and Duke Energy, which sewed native wildflowers at a solar farm in Indiana this past spring.
While normal solar farms require a removal of vegetation and flattening the land, the founding principle of low-impact solar farms that aid pollinators is that they are designed to improve soil and land, according to Jordan Macknick, an engineer and environmental analyst at the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. He says interest in pollinator-friendly solar farms has only been evident for about five years and now it is really taking off.
Harpur hopes to buffer the species that we have left. There are also benefits for the solar farms. The plants may create a cooler microclimate beneath the solar panels, boosting efficiency and productivity. The native plants can also help farmers nearby, since their roots grow as deep as up to 12 feet compared to turf grass with roots only 6 inches deep. This helps during floods and rainfall and can retain more water during heavy rains while creating stability against flooding.
Emergent Solar Energy, an Indiana company, works with many farmers but planting a pollinator habitat is relatively new. They would offer it now at any solar installation, especially because it reduces the operations and maintenance costs for mowing, herbicide or other plant management. Small pollinator-friendly solar projects are also sprouting up. Farmer William Harlow put a solar farm on less than an acre of his 2,500-acre farm, and this little patch supplies 90% of the energy needs on his property.
This concept gives new meaning to the term ‘flower power.’ It is a magical solution filled with potential possibilities and raises awareness about the environment, the threats pollinators face, and how we need to protect them and our planet. Many people believe low-impact solar projects are the way of the future.
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