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Minnesota Solar & Pollinator Habitat: A Native Landscaping Trend We’re Proud to Support

Solar power – particularly the type generated by utility companies – is growing in Minnesota. Consumer demand and a concern for our environment are fueling the increase in solar site installations. A 2016 bill passed by the Minnesota House and Senate (by near unanimous vote) established both guidelines and standards for solar companies to also include solar sanctuaries under their panels. Since then, thousands of acres of land beneath those solar arrays have been transformed into wildlife habitat, especially with native plants that support pollinators.

And Prairie Restorations, Inc. has been proud to be a part of many of those solar projects. These include:

** Blattner Energy’s 370-acre solar farm near Marshall, Minnesota;

** A solar array installed by Connexus Energy in Ramsey, Minnesota (that now includes beehives managed by Bare Honey of Minneapolis)

** 14 sites for Dairyland Power in Wisconsin. We partnered with Dairyland for these installations, all of which include pollinator-friendly plants beneath the arrays. Dairyland was given the 2016 Midwest Solar Project of Distinction award for these new sites. And we couldn’t have been prouder to be a part of this!

Some of these projects have gained widespread attention, with the Connexus project being picked up by such well-known publications as The Smithsonian and National Geographic. Even Martha Stewart gave it a shout-out in Martha Stewart Living.

Combining native plants and grasses that provide wildlife habitat – especially for pollinators and beneficial insects – is a win-win-win. The environment benefits by the restoration of native landscaping, consumers benefit by lower-cost electric power; surrounding farms benefit by increased crop yield due to pollination; and the utility companies benefit because maintenance costs can be up to 20% less than solar sites that make use of turf grass or gravel beneath the panels. One scientist who has researched the practice believes that a micro-climate is created around the panels which can boost solar production.

The movement to combine solar power with pollinator-friendly landscaping is gaining steam across the U.S., and here in the Midwest we look forward to partnering with solar developers and utility companies for more of these projects in the future. Watch for news and updates on our blog!

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