Dual-use solar is buzzing across the globe. Thanks to the education and outreach work of groups around the world—including the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy—global energy companies are actively moving forward with plans to combine solar energy with additional land uses and community benefits.
In 2015, ENGIE Distributed Solar launched a program to provide enhanced ecosystem service benefits from the ground cover under and around its solar arrays on arable soils. Today, the company has installed over 100 MW of pollinator-friendly solar projects, spanning over 600 acres across half a dozen states.
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.
“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.
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.