2016 was the first year of Minnesota’s solar bloom — but there’s plenty more to come. While even more solar sites are planned to be built in the years ahead, tens of millions of native flowers and short-growing meadow grasses will be taking root under and around the panels. Look for black-eyed susans to develop faster than the rest, followed by purple prairie clover, partridge pea, butterfly weed, and more.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently highlighted Fresh Energy’s work in pollinator friendly solar projects during a well-attended national webinar, “Co-location of Solar and Agriculture.” Watch the webinar.
“Butterflies, birds, and bees find a haven at Connexus” proclaimed the email recently sent to all members of Connexus Energy, Minnesota’s largest customer-owned electric cooperative. Connexus’ community solar garden hasn’t just been popular with its members — the site is also benefitting Minnesota’s bumblebees, honeybees, and foraging song birds — and is on the leading edge of a rapidly growing trend.
Site preparation costs for large-scale solar projects are expected to account for 20 percent of large-scale solar PV installed costs in 2020. Reducing these costs via low-impact development can lead to cascading reductions in other environmental-related costs and risks — and provide important co-benefits to agriculture. A long-time agricultural leader and the fourth-largest agricultural exporting state in the U.S., Minnesota is scaling from less than 20 megawatts of solar capacity statewide in early 2016 to 700-1,000 megawatts by late 2017. Fresh Energy hosted Jordan Macknick from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) for an update on research and work related to co-location of agriculture and solar. Mr. Macknick is the lead analyst on InSPIRE—Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment—a three-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Authored by agriculture leaders, a new law sends a clear signal to the solar industry regarding a preferred practice for use of land on solar sites. State-wide standard will meaningfully help Minnesota’s bees, monarchs, pheasants, and songbirds, by providing abundant, high-quality foraging habitat on solar sites.