By Rob Davis, Director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy
at Fresh Energy, PV Magazine
A promising new trend is showing signs of incrementally helping the solar industry to increase revenue, decrease operations and management costs, open up new markets, accelerate permitting, decrease litigation risk, and attract new land lease partners. It’s not a new module, inverter, or racking — it’s an innovative approach to the vegetation design and management. Civil engineers working on LEED-certified building design have long known that the vegetation specified in a project can provide meaningful functional benefits, in addition to being a cost-effective way to gain points toward the standards. These innovations—using ecology to benefit technology—have now made their way into the solar industry in projects throughout the country. Continue reading here.
The environmental benefits of Connexus Energy’s solar-plus-storage project are obvious enough, but this time of year, you’ll notice something more: prairie grasses and flowers planted under and around the sea of solar panels. Pollinator-friendly plantings at large solar energy sites have become common in Minnesota in recent years. Not only do they provide habitat for the bee and butterfly populations people have been concerned about, but they also promote soil health and probably even boost the solar panels’ electricity output on warm days. The National Renewable Energy Lab is using the Ramsey Renewable Station and a couple dozen other sites around the country to test that. Continue reading here.
Adding more solar “should have been a slam dunk” for Connexus Energy, a “hometown favorite” electric cooperative in Ramsey, Minnesota, said Rob Davis, a clean energy advocate who observed the siting process. But the utility’s motion to build was almost denied. Land is valuable, and “anytime you build anything anywhere there’s a neighbor, and that neighbor is going to have an opinion for better or worse,” said Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators in Energy and also leads the Media & Innovation Lab at Fresh Energy in St. Paul, Minnesota. The saving grace? Pollinator experts and ecologists testified this wouldn’t be just any solar development — it would be pollinator-friendly, giving work opportunities to local seeders and apiarists as well as providing ecological benefits to the surrounding area. Continue readinghere.