Pollinator Friendly Solar

photo credit: Guy Parker courtesy of Audubon

 

Pollinators

Pollinators are bees, birds, butterflies, bats, wasps, moths, beetles and other insects or invertebrates that facilitate plant reproduction by transferring pollen. They are critically important to environmental health, as well as sustaining our food supply and agricultural economy. New York currently has more than seven-million acres in agricultural production, and many of the State’s leading crops, such as apples, cabbage, berries, pumpkins and several other fruits, rely heavily on insect pollination. The USDA estimates the Honey Bee alone generates an estimated $15 billion per year in agricultural value in the United States.

New York is home to more than 450 wild pollinator species, a native population that is important not only to the pollination of commercial crops but also to biodiversity in our environment. Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining rapidly due to serious threats, including disease, habitat and ecosystem destruction, pesticide use, climate change, and more. Colony loss in New York is estimated to be 50-70% over the past several years alone.

At the same time, New York has set a goal of supplying 50% of energy from renewable energy sources by 2030. As a result, an anticipated 6,000 acres of ground-mounted solar arrays will be built across the State by 2020. These ground-mounted solar arrays create a unique opportunity to protect our pollinator population.

Pollinator Friendly Solar

Pollinator Friendly Solar is the practice of adding attractive, pollinator friendly, native plantings under and around ground mounted solar arrays, replacing gravel or turf grass. This pairing represents an unparalleled opportunity to advance solar energy and simultaneously address the threat of pollinator extinction, promote demand for native plants, and support local agriculture and farmers.

This concept has been piloted with great success in Minnesota, where the nation’s first voluntary standard was signed into law in 2016. Led by fellow non-profit Fresh Energy, this initiative yielded 2,350 acres of pollinator habitat at solar sites in its first year alone, and an anticipated 188,000 acres will be planted by 2018. Over the past year, Bedford 2020 has been leading an effort to replicate this model in New York State.

Read more about the benefits of Pollinator Friendly Solar here.

Pilot Project

Over the past year, Bedford 2020 has garnered support for this project among a wide array of stakeholders, including landowners, farmers, solar developers, leading eco-landscapers, beekeepers, policymakers and environmentalists. Coming out of our recent Climate Action Summit – where all of these stakeholder groups were represented – there is a groundswell of support for bringing this practice to fruition in New York.

Building on this momentum, we are identifying 5 to 10 diverse demonstration projects to be developed in Westchester, Hudson Valley and Long Island that will demonstrate the benefits of Pollinator Friendly Solar, help to establish best practices, and generate interest and action among a wide array of stakeholders over the next two to three years.

Task Force

Task Force and Advisory Committee lists in formation.

 

Resources

Scorecards

Minnesota’s Solar Site Pollinator Habitat Assessment Form

University of Vermont’s Solar Site Pollinator Habitat Planning & Assessment Form

Reports

Economic Value of Pollination (Nature Conservancy)

Survey on Honey Bee Colony Health (USDA)

New York State Pollinator Protection Plan (NYS DEC)

National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators (White House Pollinator Health Task Force)

Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees (USDA Forest Service & Pollinator Partnership)

Webinars

Pollinator Friendly Solar: Overview & Technical Practicum (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center and Audubon North Carolina)

Corporate Leadership on Solar Arrays with Abundant Pollinator Habitat​​​​​​ (International Society of Sustainability Professionals)

Co-locating Agriculture and Solar (NREL)

Monarch Joint Venture: Solar and Pollinators (U.S. Department of Interior National Conservation Training Center)

Articles

Solar Power World: Solar arrays abuzz thanks to new pollinator-friendly vegetation initiative

Modern Farmer: Solar Power and Honey Bees Make a Sweet Combo in Minnesota

GreenBiz: The business case for pollinator-friendly solar sites

National Geographic: Beekeepers Sweeten Solar Sites With the ‘Tesla of Honey’

Bee Culture: Can Solar Sites Help Save Bees?

Fresh Energy: Pollinator-friendly solar: everybody loves it

Other

Pollinator Conservation Resource Center (XERCES)

Pollinator Plants: Northeast Region Fact Sheet (XERCES)

Native Plant Database (National Audubon Society)