There is a lot of talk these days about growing pollinators with solar panels, and for good reason. The inclusion of pollinators provides a number of benefits for solar installations, agriculture and the environment. But it’s not as easy as planting a few seeds and hoping for the best. Fortunately, through a wealth of experience and research, we have developed cutting-edge methods that can help you succeed. Inovateus Solar and The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint recently conducted a webinar about these risks and benefits, and the following is a summary of those guidelines that will help avoid common pitfalls. Inovateus Solar and The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint recently conducted a webinar about these risks and benefits, and the following is a summary of those guidelines that will help avoid common pitfalls. Inovateus Solar и The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint недавно провели вебинар об этих рисках и преимуществах, и ниже приводится краткое изложение этих рекомендаций, которые помогут избежать распространенных ошибок. Inovateus Solar and The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint recently hosted a webinar about these risks and benefits, and below is a summary of these recommendations to help you avoid common mistakes. Inovateus Solar 和The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint 最近举办了一场关于这些风险和收益的网络研讨会，以下是有助于避免常见陷阱的指南摘要。 Inovateus solar 和 the bee & batterfly habitat/conservation Blueprint 最近 了 一 场 关于 这些 和 的 网络 研讨会 以下 是 有助于 避免 常见 的。 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要 摘要Компании Inovateus Solar и The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint недавно провели вебинар, посвященный этим рискам и преимуществам, и ниже приводится краткое изложение рекомендаций, которые помогут избежать распространенных ошибок. Inovateus Solar and The Bee & Butterfly Habitat/Conservation Blueprint recently hosted a webinar on these risks and benefits, and below is a summary of recommendations to help you avoid common mistakes.
Solar energy developers can positively impact the environment by planting pollinators around solar panels. Pollinators do more than just provide habitat for bees, butterflies, insects, and other wildlife. They also sequester carbon, help prevent storm runoff, and reduce the use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, thereby improving water and soil quality.
Many of the benefits that pollinators bring to solar installations may not be so obvious. Pollinating plants cool the ground under solar panels, helping them work more efficiently and generate more electricity. They also reduce solar farm maintenance costs because established pollinators require far less mowing than other ground cover plants.
The benefits don’t end there. As new solar farms develop, many face local resistance. Residents may worry that solar farms will take up valuable agricultural land, damage the landscape, or change the character of their neighborhoods. Pollinators can help in many ways, such as improving the appearance of solar farms. Beekeepers may keep hives around sun-pollinated fields to produce honey. Attracting more pollinating insects to an area can help increase yields on nearby farms. By seeing all these benefits, you can help communities get started with solar farms.
As proof of the benefits, national solar energy developer and EPC Inovateus Solar have committed to growing pollinating insects as part of their sustainable solar energy development. This year, the company plans to have at least 75 percent of its solar sites include pollinator habitat. Inovateus is not alone: this trend is gaining popularity among solar energy developers in the US.
This is where the conservation plan comes in. The company creates bespoke seed mixtures for pollinator habitats and has extensive experience in tailoring mixtures to the specific needs of solar energy developers. It’s harder than it looks, a whole pollinator seed mix may not be suitable for a solar plant.
To do this well, you need to plan ahead—ideally before the project even starts. Think of vegetation as important as the electricity generated by solar panels. The earlier vegetation is taken into account, the more successful your planting will be.
It is critical to involve all parties in these early discussions: seed mix developers, solar energy developers, and anyone else who will manage the vegetation.
The utility scale solar industry is moving towards a bottom panel height standard of 20 to 24 inches from the ground. Many pollinated plants grow taller so they will shade the panels.
Limiting plant heights to species no taller than 18-24 inches requires a lot of tools from your toolbox, but if the panels are too low, you might be stuck with it.
Projects with panel heights as low as 36 inches may be better suited for pollinated plants. Those 12 inches go a long way in developing your seed mix. The good news for solar panel designers is that there is little difference in cost between 24 and 36 inches.
The next step in early planning is preparing your website. This may mean removing any existing vegetation. If the site was previously used for agriculture, you will need to control the weeds that will grow on the site.
Site preparation may include planting pollinated plants prior to construction. The benefit of waiting for construction to complete is that you don’t have to replant what has been planted before. However, if the site does not require significant leveling or you do not anticipate that you will need to replant more than 30 percent of the site, it is much easier and more cost-effective to establish a uniform pollinator soil cover before construction begins. For this reason, many projects go down this path.
A vegetation management plan is needed to help you with details such as site preparation, when to plant, how to plant, and determining what equipment to use. Although pollinators make up only a small part of the overall project budget, the entire project could be ruined if the final vegetation cover is not established.
After establishing a pollinator habitat, it is recommended that you mow it 9 to 12 inches above the ground, rather than close to the ground. Time is of the essence. Mowing is necessary before the weeds get out of hand because the pollinating plants are still growing.
Local wildflowers are nice to look at, but they are not always suitable for a solar plant. Many do not tolerate pruning once or twice a year, and some may grow too tall for your panels. On the other hand, some local regulations require that you use only native plant species for ground cover, so you should check the requirements in your area.
A well-managed solar facility can often use white Dutch clover, which is often used in conservation plans in combination with fescue and bluegrass for utility scale solar farms with low panel heights of 20 to 24 inches.
This mixture has a very high seeding rate and takes root quickly. Clover, although not a native plant, is very beneficial for pollinators. But for maximum benefit to pollinators, it’s best to set up two different seed mixes for the same plot. Clover mix can be used around the panels. Areas without on-site panels (typically 10 to 20 percent of utility-scale projects) can be planted with a more traditional pollinator seed mix of at least 40 native wildflowers. This method is best suited for plots of at least two acres.
About 16 states have sun pollination rating sheets that can help you select the best seeds for your area. You will also need a seed mix that is suitable for your soil type and geography.
Research continues to use solar energy to pollinate plants. In 2023, the Bee and Butterfly Habitat Foundation will launch a program to create high-quality pollinator habitat through utility-scale solar projects. The program will track pollinators such as milkweed for five years, and each project’s carbon sequestration will be monitored for at least six years to determine which seed mix is best for the purpose.
But you don’t have to wait for further research like this to start including pollinators in your projects. Following the best practices outlined here will ensure that your solar pollinator efforts bring significant benefits to your project and the region in which it is located.
The information in this article is based on a joint webinar hosted by Inovateus Solar and The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund in November 2022. The full recording of the webinar can be viewed here.
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Post time: Dec-07-2022