According to IBISWorld, the market size of the US solar farm industry is $12.5bn in 2023. That’s a lot of money and, given the support of Federal and State governments, the odds are solar developers are approaching your town. That means you have an opportunity to set standards that will benefit your town for years and years to come. And the first thing you should insist upon is pollinator-friendly solar.
What is pollinator-friendly solar?
Pollinator-friendly solar is when solar sites are planted with native species that provide habitat to local pollinators. Typically, solar farms have been covered in gravel or turf grass, neither of which have any benefit to wildlife. As more and more people see the value in protecting pollinators, they realize that solar farms represent an incredible opportunity to layer environmental benefits.
How can pollinator-friendly solar benefit your town?
One of the most frustrating parts of solar development is the inherent conflict between wanting sustainable energy sources and not wanting an eyesore. Or, worse, not wanting to destroy existing greenspaces in order to install solar panels. Pollinator-friendly solar can mitigate those worries.
Solar developers often look to farmland since it is already cleared and open to the sun. By planting native species around the solar panels, this land becomes even more pollinator-friendly than when crops were being grown there. For one thing, pesticide use is eliminated. Also, the very fact that native species are planted means that pollinators are gaining habitat that cropland couldn’t provide. (Of course, if they are looking to clearcut forest, that’s another thing entirely, which I’ll address in a later post.)
When native species are allowed to take root and go through their life cycle year after year after year, they enrich the soil. The plants die back annually and add to the soil layer. This not only provides habitat for pollinators but creates beautiful compost that nourishes the soil. For farmers looking to work their land again after the solar site is decommissioned, this is a very beneficial prospect.
For towns grappling with the NIMBY response – “not in my backyard” – a beautiful prairie landscape can mitigate a lot of fears. Instead of an ugly gravel and solar panel monstrosity, the site will be filled with beautiful flowers, butterflies, bees, and birds.
Choose Pollinator-Friendly Solar
As your town develops its solar laws, give thought to pollinators. Some simple language in your solar laws can make all the difference to your town. (I can help you write it.) What could easily be an eyesore can become a thing of beauty your town can be proud of.
Photo by Chelsea on Unsplash