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Solar Farms & Native Minnesota Pollinator Habitat: A Natural Partnership

Recently I was asked about what’s new at Prairie Restorations, and I talked about our new location in Lewiston, Minnesota.  But there’s something else that’s relatively new that I wanted to discuss in this post, and that’s how the increase in solar power production has affected native landscape restoration industry, particularly in relation to providing habitat for threatened pollinators.

As many people are aware, there are literally hundreds of solar farms being built across Minnesota and adjoining states.  I know Minnesota is a real hotbed for this right now, but so are other areas of the country.

Because of the pollinator crisis, people were looking for creative ways to establish more habitat.  Taking a hint from solar projects in Europe, planting native vegetation in and around the arrays made great sense. These projects typically have a lifespan of at least 25 years, so to have all these acres converted into pollinator habitat is very crucial. There have been a lot of people working on and promoting this concept including non-profits such as Fresh Energy.

All the hard work is paying off as the establishment of native pollinator habitat on solar sites is now widespread and, in many cases, a necessary condition of the permit. The movement continues to grow and creative ideas continue to emerge.

Instead of having some sort of benign ground cover like turf grass that really doesn’t provide any ecological benefit and that requires frequent upkeep, you can have a very practical, low-maintenance, environmentally-friendly and helpful landscape instead. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

We have been involved in well over a thousand acres of solar array seeding thus far. This year the number of projects we are involved with have ramped up even more, including several in other parts of the country.  It’s a unique niche in our native landscape industry, but it is one that has really expanded in the last 18 months. It’s great when you can be involved with a win-win scenario such as this.

Why the sudden expansion of these solar farms? 

I think most of it started with a drive for renewable energy, coupled with dramatically reduced costs for the solar panels themselves.  And then there have been incentives from different states – namely Minnesota – to produce a certain amount of their power from renewable energy. And those percentages need to be met by certain years, so all of these factors seemingly came together at the right time.

Mike Evenocheck, Director of Sales & Marketing

 

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