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Minnesota Solar Sanctuaries for Birds, Bees, and Pollinators

We’re excited about some ground breaking developments…

During what was almost the 11th hour of the final night of Minnesota’s 2016 regular legislative session, a bill was introduced in the House and Senate that establishes standards and guidelines for Minnesota solar developers to create Solar Sanctuaries under solar panels. The bill (HF 3353, SF 2689) flew through the House and Senate almost unanimously. This small piece of legislations accomplishes much for our habitat restoration mission, especially early in 2016 as approximately 2,000 more acres are slated to be initiated for development into solar fields and gardens.

Now, solar developers have useful standards, established and maintained by the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR). The standards allow for flexibility within vegetation selected, but any solar field claiming to be pollinator friendly must work within these generous guidelines and submit their vegetation installation and management plans for review to the public and to a Minnesota nonprofit solar industry trade association.

Greg Knopff, legislative analyst for the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said, “It’s just kind of a truth-in-advertising kind of a thing. If you follow these guidelines, then you can say that you are providing beneficial habitat to songbirds, pollinators and game birds.”

We’re pleased to tell you that during this year we will be restoring prairie habitat in and around the new 370-acre solar field in Marshall, MN, partnering with energy giant Blattner Energy. We’ll simultaneously be restoring native habitat on 11 sites all across the State of Wisconsin, partnering with SoCore Energy. Check back for more projects to be underway.

While solar developers and installers could still choose to create arid, desert wastelands of gravel underneath their solar panels, many are realizing the far better decision is to restore the land to native habitat. And we know it’s the best decision for the water, birds, bees, pollinators, and people, too!

 

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