This article, written by AgriSolar Clearinghouse partners at Argonne National Lab and NREL, discusses the results of a five-year field study to understand how insect communities respond to newly established habitat on solar energy facilities in agricultural landscapes. Researchers found an increase in all habitat and biodiversity metrics, including a rise in abundance and diversity for both flowering plants and insects. Positive effects on the frequency of bee visitation to a nearby soybean field were also recorded. Their observations provide support for solar-pollinator habitat as a feasible conservation practice to safeguard biodiversity and increase food security in agricultural landscapes.

This fact sheet includes information on how current and future research can help us understand the role of pollinator-friendly solar in biodiversity conservation. Without a doubt, considerable amounts of land will be needed to meet future solar energy projections. The current rate of solar energy development has already increased the pressure on land resources for energy generation and other land uses (e.g., agriculture, habitat for biodiversity, etc.). Therefore, sustained development of solar energy will depend on proper siting to avoid ecological conflicts and land-sharing solutions that synergize this form of renewable energy development with other land uses.

As the solar energy industry grows, many hundreds of thousands of acres of land will be transformed into solar panel facilities. With this large change in land use, there is the opportunity to promote biodiversity and support pollinators by using pollinator-friendly management practices at the solar facilities. This paper explores the ecological and economic effects of a pollinator-friendly solar facility compared to a turfgrass solar facility. The researcher hypothesized that a pollinator-friendly solar facility would be functionally equivalent in pollinator support and overall insect diversity to a pollinator-friendly non-solar field and that both sites would have far greater pollinator support and insect diversity than a turfgrass solar field. To test this hypothesis, vegetation and insect sampling were conducted and the resulting data were analyzed for differences in vegetative and insect diversity and pollinator abundance at a pollinator-friendly solar facility, a turfgrass solar facility, and a reference non-solar pollinator-friendly field. The diversity analysis revealed that the pollinator-friendly solar site was overall functionally equivalent to the non-solar pollinator-friendly site and the turfgrass solar site had low insect and vegetative diversity, but high insect abundance. Photovoltaic solar panel energy production is negatively affected by high temperatures. Therefore, to maximize energy production and promote biodiversity native forbs may be incorporated into a solar facility landscape to cool the solar panels by the cooling effect of transpiration and produce more energy than a traditional turfgrass landscaped solar facility throughout the growing season. Overall, this study supports the idea that pollinator-friendly landscapes could be more economically viable, as pertaining to energy output, and more ecologically beneficial compared to turfgrass. More research is necessary to further investigate and test the patterns seen at only these two solar sites, but these results are encouraging for the future widespread implementation of pollinator-friendly management practices in solar facilities across the Mid-Atlantic.

Agrivoltaic systems have an increasing interest. Realizing this upcoming technology raises still many challenges at design, policy and economic level. This study addresses a geospatial methodology to quantify the important design and policy questions across Europe. An elevated agrivoltaic system on arable land is evaluated: three crop light requirements (shade-loving, shade-tolerant and shade-intolerant) are simulated at a spatial resolution of 25 km across the European Union (EU). As a result, this study gives insight into the needed optimal ground coverage ratio (GCR) of the agrivoltaic system for a specific place. Additionally, estimations of the energy production, levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and land equivalent ratio (LER) are performed in comparison with a separated system. The results of the study show that the location-dependent solar insolation and crop shade tolerance have a major influence on the financial competitiveness and usefulness of these systems, where a proper European policy system and implementation strategy is required. Finally, a technical study shows an increase in PV power of 1290 GWp (almost × 10 of the current EU’s PV capacity) if potato cultivation alone (1% of the total arable agricultural area) is converted into agrivoltaic systems.

The push toward carbon-free and renewable energy sources has precipitated a nationwide (United States) trend to increase solar generation via ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) arrays. Beyond carbon benefits, one possible way to provide additional ecological value of solar PV projects is to co-locate pollinator habitat when site conditions permit. Around 2015, the concept of a “scorecard” emerged that could assess the value of a solar project to pollinator species. The development and application of these scorecards, to date, has not been controlled by any central organization. Scorecards are being developed on a state-by-state basis using various processes, by a variety of subject matter experts, and using a range of oversight and review approaches. As such, there is variation between different state scorecard programs and divergent opinions regarding the scorecards themselves. Given that developing state and local laws and incentive programs are linked to the pollinator-friendly solar scorecards, it is important to consider the basis of the scorecards themselves. With interest in co-location of solar with pollinator habitat, this comprehensive study of existing pollinator solar scorecards considers the level of consistency across the scorecards, analyzes the specific scorable elements and their relative weighting, and investigates the factors that influenced scorecard development. A total of 15 state scorecards and one nonspecific scorecard available as of April 2021 were reviewed to identify common and differentiating features. A categorization system for individual scoring elements was created to facilitate numeric assessment across the available scorecards. Further, in order to understand the unique motivations and processes that influenced the design of the scorecards, interviews were conducted with 34 experts involved in scorecard design, policy development, and use, including university professors, state agency staff, and solar project developers, owners, and operators. Research uncovered a general lack of rigor, consistency, and oversight for scorecard design methodology, version control, and use. However, if the scorecards can be predictive of ecological outcomes – healthy pollinator habitat – then they may still be meeting their primary purpose. Field-based research is necessary to determine if there is a correlation between the points received on a pollinator-friendly scorecard and the actual solar PV site habitat conditions.

Written by the Center for Rural Affairs, this report reveals the benefits of mixing solar power and native vegetation. The report identifies types of solar projects, including residential, community-scale and utility-scale and their relations to native bees, monarch butterflies, pheasants and quail and soil and water quality. In the report, there is a plan available for those looking to optimize the health of native plants for the benefit of pollinators. The study discussed here also covers seed-mix selection, methods for seeding the vegetation and managing the site(s) afterwards.

This report highlights the benefits, value, and policy considerations of pollinator-friendly solar. It also explains methods to building a pollinator-friendly site. The report covers planning, costs and seeding practices as well as timing impacts for wildlife and pollinators. Policy considerations for public and private stakeholders are also discussed in this report.

This research article tested whether insect pollinators are affected at local scale by a results-based scheme scored based on plant indicators, or if landscape management is more important, and whether there were different responses between taxon-specific groups.

The study revealed that agrisolar project management should consider a range of different management measures and landscape-scale approaches where
possible, to maximize benefits for a range of pollinators, including bumble bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

This resource highlights how solar companies can provision pollinator-friendly solar through a company’s standard procurement process and provides purchase agreement language for pollinator and agriculturally friendly solar. The report provides details for planning consideration for the land under and around solar energy developments which is often overlooked. Addressing the details associated with this concern will aid in addressing climate and biodiversity crisis concurrently.

This paper presents a case study of plant-pollinator interactions at a solar energy generation site in southwestern Oregon, a water-limited, dryland ecosystem. The study focuses on plant-pollinator interactions at a solar-energy generation site in southwestern Oregon, a water-limited, dryland ecosystem.

The results of this study show that this data can inform agriculture and pollinator health advocates as they seek land for pollinator-habitat restoration in target areas, as well as local solar developers and homeowners deciding how to manage land beneath solar arrays.