And the Emmy Goes to…Pollinator-Friendly Solar

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A Midwest Regional Emmy Award and Cleanie Award for Best National Public Affairs Campaign, beside 56 Brewing’s Solarama Crush honey IPA and Clif Family Winery’s Solar Grown Raw Honey.

A Midwest Regional Emmy Award and Cleanie Award for Best National Public Affairs Campaign, beside 56 Brewing’s Solarama Crush honey IPA and Clif Family Winery’s Solar Grown Raw Honey.

Fresh Energy recently gathered with friends and colleagues at 56 Brewing to honor and celebrate an Emmy® Award for “Pollinator-Friendly Solar,” a consumer feature television segment on Prairie Sportsman, one of Granite Falls-based Pioneer PBS’ flagship local programs.

The episode tells the story of how the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources guided developers of large-scale photovoltaic solar arrays to make productive use of the land under and around the panels by establishing low-growing meadows instead of using gravel or turfgrass. The flowering landscapes created opportunities for beekeepers to harvest honey from the solar sites, resulting in collaborations with restauranteurs and makers of craft beer and cider.

Since production on the TV segment began back in 2017, pollinator-friendly solar has garnered national recognition and emerged as a best practice for solar development on arable land.

  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s InSPIRE study is quantifying operations and management savings and other benefits of pollinator-friendly and low-impact solar development approaches;
  • Pollinator-friendly solar arrays have been announced by Clif Bar, Disney, Organic Valley, Giant/Martin’s Grocery, Catholic Charities of Washington D.C., the partners managing President Carter’s solar park, Penn State, Denison University, University of Dayton, and University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana;
  • Xcel Energy announced that it will require a completed copy of Minnesota’s pollinator-friendly solar scorecard for each bid into its expected 3,000 MW of solar;
  • Fast Company ran a feature story about pollinator-friendly solar and beekeeping in its annual review of World Changing Ideas;
  • Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and a growing number of counties and cities are taking steps to encourage the practice.

A Preview of Pollinator-Friendly Solar; Watch It Now

Though pollinator-friendly solar arrays can be found in several states, the Emmy Award winning Prairie Sportsman segment showcases two specific projects:

  • 1200-acre North Star Solar Array, located in Forest Lake Minnesota, designed by Community Energy and owned by D.E. Shaw;
  • 29-acre IMS Solar, located in St. Joseph, Minnesota, designed by IPS Solar and owned by WGL Energy.

Both projects score more than 70 points on the scorecard which serves as Minnesota’s state-wide standard for pollinator-friendly solar.

In response to the news, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith shared the following statement:

Issued by the Upper Midwest Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Pioneer PBS’ flagship local programs Prairie Sportsman and Postcards received a combined three Regional Emmy® Awards in 2019. This is the seventh year in a row that Pioneer has received Upper Midwest Emmys for its local programs, adding up to a total of 12 Emmy® awards since 2013.

The award-winning productions were made possible by funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and other sponsors.

The program was produced by Cindy Dorn with editors/videographers Dylan Curfman and Max Grabow, assistant producer Bret Amundson and voice artist Lisa Cownie. The full episodes of Pioneer PBS’ Emmy winning and nominated stories are available to watch online.

Fresh Energy helped connect the filmmakers with people and programs in Minnesota working to make solar fields pollinator-friendly, as well as those who are benefitting from these efforts. Fresh Energy, Bare Honey, 56 Brewing and others were formally recognized as major contributors to the episode.

Regional Emmy follows National Award

Earlier this fall Fresh Energy was recognized at Solar Power International for its leadership on education and outreach for pollinator-friendly solar.

In the category “Public Affairs Campaign of the Year,” the judges selected Fresh Energy’s campaign, Pollinator-Friendly Solar, for the top prize.

The annual Cleanie® Awards are judged by leaders from Google, Edison Energy, Black & Veatch, Village Capital, and Hannon Armstrong. Enel Green Power, owners of the 1000-acre pollinator-friendly Aurora Solar, was named Enterprise Company of the Year.

More about the Center for Pollinators in Energy

Learning from work done in the United Kingdom, Minnesota is a national leader on solar development that is co-located with, and provides benefits to, agriculture and ecosystems. With the support of agricultural leaders and groups including Representative Rod Hamilton (R–Mountain Lake), Senator Dan Sparks (DFL–Austin), Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and Minnesota Farmers Union, Fresh Energy and Audubon Minnesota helped establish the nation’s first statewide standard for vegetation on solar sites.