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
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.
This document includes entomologist-approved standards for the managed landscape of a solar PV facility to be considered “beneficial to pollinators.” The scorecard includes the following options for entering data: site planning and management, seed mixes, insecticide risk and outreach education, among others.
This Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund guide outlines the steps that go into planning, preparing, planting, and maintaining pollinator habitat. This guide outlines best practices for achieving high-quality pollinator habitat through proper planning, preparing, maintaining and planting. The guide also covers what has happened to pollinator habitat in recent years and why it has declined, as well as covering why these methods and processes are especially crucial for establishing healthy bee populations on agrivoltaic sites.
This report investigates the effects of solar arrays on plant composition, bloom timing and foraging behavior of pollinators from June to September (after peak bloom) in full shade plots and partial shade plots under solar panels as well as in full sun plots (controls) outside of the solar panels. The report shows that a variation of shade plots and their affect on pollinating insects and their ability to achieve a late-season forage is important when managing an agrivoltaic operation. This late-season foraging behavior is especially crucial for certain pollinating insects in water-limited environments.
This report provides a summary of Fresh Energy’s key considerations related to pollinator-friendly solar. The report includes considerations for the development of agrisolar operations, including: design, construction, maintenance, pollinator basics and a business case for pollinator-friendly solar. Included within these topics are ground-mounted utility solar, hosting honey bees on solar farms, adding solar to dairy land and required vegetation for solar RPFs at Xcel Energy.
With a focus on north-west Europe, this paper systematically reviews the available evidence on how land management practices relevant to solar parks can enhance pollinator biodiversity. The methods in this research systematically review all of the available evidence on land-management practices in northwest Europe and their impacts on pollinator biodiversity.
The assessment provides information relating to improving solar park management for
pollinators by providing foraging and reproductive resources, undergoing considered management practices, increasing landscape heterogeneity and connectivity, and providing microclimatic variation.
This technical guide serves as a starting point for the establishment and management of pollinator-friendly ground cover at ground-mounted solar photovoltaic arrays. This guide is intended to serve as a resource in understanding pollinator-friendly solar components and identify organizations,
vendors, and experts who can provide more site-specific guidance. Also provided here are general guides for seed-mix development, planting layout and maintenance of pollinator-friendly vegetation to be used in agrivoltaic systems.
This fact sheet provides tips, facts, and guidance on a variety of agrivoltaic-related practices for solar projects and native vegetation in South Dakota. The fact sheet includes information on how to add product value, planning, cost, seeding, management, and construction. The resource also provides examples of native seed mixes for the region of South Dakota.
This fact sheet provides tips, facts, and guidance on a variety of agrivoltaic-related practices for solar projects and native vegetation in Iowa. The fact sheet includes information on how to add product value, planning, cost, seeding, management, and construction. The resource also provides examples of native seed mixes for the region of Iowa. Also included in this fact sheet are a short summary of best practices for agrivoltaic operations in Iowa.
This report explores the synergies between farming and solar photovoltaics with the premises that agricultural production on farmland should be maintained and farm profitability and soil health should be improved. This report explores whether a strong case can be made from a public policy point-of-view for developing solar so that it helps to preserve and improve farmland and the ecosystem in which it is located, while enabling achievement of both energy system and food system goals. The report covers many topics related to agrivoltaic systems including soil health, loss of land to development and electricity and agricultural land context.
This study addresses how land is being converted to accommodate for solar farms, and the potential for pollinator habitat to be established at solar farms in North Carolina. This report reveals that, based on previous land use, alternative vegetation selection, and cost comparison with current vegetation management techniques, the potential to create pollinator habitat at solar farms in North Carolina is likely to be feasible. The report covers suggested vegetation, estimated land-use acreage and cost analysis for agrivoltaic operations in North Carolina.
Starting in 2019, insect inventories were collected from a solar facility in Jackson County, Oregon as part of a study on plant-pollinator interactions in agrivoltaic systems. This study investigated the effects of solar arrays on plant composition, bloom timing and foraging behavior of pollinators in open fields, and in full shade and partial shade areas under solar panels in a predominant agricultural region of southern Oregon. The report shows that typically unused ground under solar panels can be used for pollinator habitat that benefits pollinating insects.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) worked with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to develop this report, which synthesizes the scientific literature and existing best management practices for monarch butterflies, along with input from a survey of monarch experts and a survey of EPRI members. This technical report includes details surrounding herbicide use, controlling invasive species, brush and tree management, mowing, prescribed fire, grazing, and restoration and revegetation. Also presented is that it is important to consider the specific land asset type in relation to supporting monarchs, including transmission lines, distribution lines, power plant sites, surplus properties, solar sites, wind sites, and substations.
This paper highlights and discuss ongoing efforts to couple solar energy production with pollinator conservation, noting recent legal definitions of these practices. It also summarizes key studies from the field of ecology, bee conservation, and the author’s experience working with members of the solar industry. The paper specifically addresses how solar facilities are designed and spread to the public and highlights ongoing efforts to couple solar energy production with preservation of pollinators and their habitat. Other details in this paper focus on native, perennial flowering and their association with the sustainability of beekeeping and bee preservation.
This summary provides a comprehensive overview of bird mortality patterns in utility scale photovoltaic solar. It synthesizes results from fatality monitoring studies at 10 photovoltaic solar facilities across 13 site years in California and Nevada. The report also addresses vegetation that is often removed in regions such as deserts in the southwestern U.S. However, the benefits of site restoration to pollinators and other wildlife have been recently recognized and developers in some regions of the U.S. are moving towards ecologically-based site restoration and low impact site restoration.
This report importantly provides a critical lens through which the importance of policy and land use analysis is justified as a response to conflicting community feedback about the agriculture-solar shift. The findings of this report are particularly relevant for the LACDRP, the client, as the agency has been tasked with identifying opportunities to preserve agriculture across the County and supporting local renewable energy resources. The agency will use the findings of this report to guide updates to the Los Angeles County General Plan and the Los Angeles County Climate Action Plan. This could serve as a guide for the future development of agrivoltaic operations in similar geographic locations with similar concerns related to housing and agricultural land use situations.
Written by the Center for Rural Affairs, this report reveals the benefits of mixing solar power and native vegetation. Included in this report are details related to habitat for pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies, water and soil quality as well as habitat for game birds like pheasants and quail. The report also includes information on evaluating costs and benefits of agrivoltaic operations and tips for planning for success.