USA: Where Solar Plants Help the Bees

Published on Wednesday, 28 February 2018

“This partnership is laying the foundation for how solar projects can create additional shared value and benefits for co-locating solar and agriculture.”

– Rafael Gonzalez, Head of Enel Green Power North America

By working together with NREL we hope this ground-breaking research will prove how native vegetation management programs at solar sites can deliver long-term environmental and soil quality benefits, increase pollinator plant habitat to address honey bee population decline, while also improving the overall energy generation performance of the site itself.

The research project will be conducted over a three-year period beginning in the Spring of 2018 and will be carried out across three of the 16 sites that make up the 150 MW of the Aurora solar project in Minnesota

By including multiple test sites, NREL will be able to monitor how different seed and soil types affect growth across different eco-regions. This is the first time that NREL and an industry partner have conducted a comprehensive and systematic study across multiple solar sites

“The Aurora project sites provide us with a unique opportunity to examine a wide variety of solar and agriculture co-location questions with an unparalleled level of rigor. What we learn from this partnership will have important implications for low-impact solar development in the future.”

– Jordan Macknick, Principal Investigator from NREL and the leader of the DOE InSPIRE

This research approach has the potential to provide broad, scientifically rigorous insights to the currently lacking scientific literature on this topic, while also providing practical benefits, insights, and data to benefit both Enel Green Power’s approach to low impact solar development and   the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to support future vegetation management decisions for solar installations throughout the state of Minnesota.

EGPNA’s Aurora project was selected for its robust vegetation plan that creates a biodiverse habitat for pollinator species. Furthermore, these sites were designed to channel storm water into the aquifer and preserve soil for future farming. EGPNA worked with a local agricultural monitor during construction to integrate the best seeding and soil mix at each site. These efforts will help protect the farmland throughout the life of the project.