- By: Nick Sylvestre
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Have you heard of pollinator friendly solar farms? As solar growth continues to rise, pollinators are giving landowners another reason to support renewable energy. Many landowners have owned their farm for generations and the importance of maintaining the resources of their land is at the forefront of their mind when they are considering a solar installation. It’s no secret that renewable energy from the sun is growing at an exponential rate and updated battery storage capacity is rising, too. With such a high level of growth it raises an important question. What can we do on an agricultural level to make sure we are protecting the land that we are utilizing with solar? Ultimately, regulators have answered that question with the evidence that we can spur agricultural growth right alongside solar.
Pollinator friendly sites can ease this transition between the need for agricultural growth and the need for renewable energy from the utility, making landowner solar farms more attractive to the community. There are times when the land used for a solar farm needs to be transformed by grading, vegetation reduction, fencing and road construction. Although these are all still valid concerns for landowners, existing environmental impact regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) have worked extremely hard to incentivize the maintenance and protection of the land surrounding the farms. We have seen this first hand through recent policy updates around the nation.
Massachusetts SMART program recently updated their program which, among other incentives, promotes pollinator friendly sites. We have also seen six states, led by Minnesota in 2016, implement state legislation to incentivize utilities that want to holistically reduce their ecological footprint. Simple actions to promote pollinator health alongside solar installations can make solar not only carbon-free but also beneficial to native ecosystems and the surrounding area’s agricultural economy.
In 2018, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory did a research study and found that stable pollinator populations facilitated from pollinator friendly solar farms assisted in the pollination of nearby agricultural land, and ultimately boosted crop yields. This research has helped regulators which has also helped local energy providers such as Community Choice Aggregations (CCA), improve pollinator friendly practices in their solar farms. In February 2020, MCE in California became the first CCA to adopt pro-pollinator policies. Planting pollinator-friendly vegetation in solar farms provides multiple ecological and economic benefits to stakeholders. Using native plants as ground cover can help recharge groundwater, reduce erosion, and improve soil carbon sequestration. Solar investors also receive additional incentives from state utilities by installing beehives and bee colonies as part of their installations.
Farmers in Minnesota have also seen economic benefits from leasing farmland to harvest the sun and installing pollinator-friendly solar farms.Even in states like Minnesota where agriculture is listed as their second largest economic sector, farmers have been losing money as degraded land and changing markets have made farming less profitable. This is where a solar site lease can make a lot of sense to local farmers, especially with the knowledge that their land will be protected. Farmers can let their land regenerate by lying uncultivated under solar modules, while still making a profit.State and utility incentivizes are now, more than ever, encouraging farmers to prioritize land restoration over the long term, which pays off in healthier soil and higher crop yields. Overall, considering the options for a solar farm with these protections can assure farmers that they are not only increasing profitability, but protecting their assets and enhancing the resources on their land.
Speak to one of our experts and have a professional site walk of your land to see how a pollinator friendly solar installation can benefit your land, provide stable revenue for decades and let you, the landowner, steward your land with pride. Please contact Louth Callan Renewables at 860-814-4379 to learn if pollinator protection is available for solar solutions in your state.
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