Tag Archives: pollinator-friendly solar sites

Highly compatible: pollinator-friendly solar projects and farming

By Katie Siegner, Scott Wentzell and Whitney Mann, Minnesota Post

Installed solar capacity in Minnesota crossed the 1-gigawatt threshold last fall, and is set to grow sixfold by 2030 to meet the state’s 10 percent solar energy goal. The management of the land below the panels — most commonly seeded with turf grass — offers an important opportunity to provide multiple environmental and agricultural benefits in addition to carbon free energy generation. Last fall, our team of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies conducted a cost-benefit analysis of solar development on farmland in Minnesota, and the results were illuminating. By developing projects as pollinator-friendly — the practice of planting deep-rooted grasses and wildflowers throughout a project site — solar developers have the potential to provide habitat for threatened pollinator species, restore important prairie ecosystems, and boost the crop yields of nearby fields. Read more here.

Photo by SoCore Energy: Kearney Solar Farm

Previously posted article with information about Kearney’s Pollinator-Friendly Solar Farm and links to additional resources:
In bid to help bees, Xcel to require vegetation disclosure in solar RFPs

Note about OPPD’s Community-Scale Solar Farm now under construction by NextEra:
Courtney Kennedy, OPPD Alternative Energy Program Manager, announced at Nebraskans for Solar’s March 13th public forum on OPPD’s Solar Farm, located on an acreage in Fort Calhoun, that it will be pollinator-friendly, with native plants, as well.

WIND ENERGY AND CROPS

Iowa State University Research Finds Wind Farms Positively Impact Crops
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

‘If You Build It, They Will Come’: Saving Pollinator Habitat With Solar Power’s Help

By Madelyn Beck, NPR Illinois

Researchers at Argonne National Lab in Illinois and the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado think that a rapidly growing energy sector may be a key opportunity. Not only could pollinator habitat mitigate possible solar-field damage, like soil erosion and the loss of plant species, but could actively help fortify the soil and environment.

Rob Davis with Minnesota-based nonprofit Fresh Energy, which advocates for things like renewable energy, said putting pollinator habitat under solar panels could also be a boon for rural areas. He said the combination gives landowners another form of steady income and helps pollinate crops around the area. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Rob Davis / Fresh Energy

SEIA Expands Leadership Team, Adding Vice President of Congressional Affairs and Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced today a restructure and expansion of its leadership team. Erin Duncan, a proven legislative strategist and advocate, has been named the organization’s new vice president of congressional affairs and Katherine Gensler has been named vice president of regulatory affairs.

Duncan has extensive experience in Washington D.C. She joins SEIA after more than 11 years as a federal lobbyist for the National Education Association. Prior to that, she spent eight years working on Capitol Hill, including six years as legislative director for Rep. Tom Osborne,
(R-Nebraska). Read more here.

CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT NEWS

Corporate Customers Smash Green Procurement Marks, Commercial Property Executives. One of Facebook’s deals in 2018 was part of a new PPA signed in March with Adobe for energy produced by the 320-megawatt Rattlesnake Creek Wind Farm in Nebraska owned by Enel Green Power North America Inc. (EGPNA). 

Clean Energy Deal Tracker: ExxonMobil, Facebook headline a record-breaking fourth quarter,
GreenBiz. Not only was 2018 the biggest year on record for corporate renewable energy deals, with more than 6.5 gigawatts of contracts on the books, the furious pace of deal-making — and the creativity of the arrangements — barely slowed during the waning three months of the year. According to the official figures released in mid-December by the Business Renewables Center (BRC), part of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the publicly announced capacity contracted over the past 12 months was 6.43 GW.

NEBRASKA CONSERVATION AWARD

Conservation efforts recognized at NRD banquet,
Norfolk Daily News. In the past seven years, the [Wiese family of Oakland] has planted more than 1,200 trees and shrubs and renovated a 2½ acre windbreak
system — all by hand. Besides trees, the family also put in solar panels to provide electricity to their home and outbuildings. Since putting in the solar panels, the family has noticed a decrease in their monthly electric bill and feel good about producing green energy on their acreage. They also have a large garden on which they do their own version of no-till.

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY

Nebraska clean energy plan focuses on wind, solar, efficiency, by Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

Clean energy plan renamed: Due to a business having a similar name, the Husker Power Plan was renamed the Husker Energy Plan. The plan was revised August 28, 2018. To read the updated Husker Energy Plan and see the 16 partners that have endorsed it, visit: www.huskerenergyplan.org.

POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SOLAR SITES

Solar Farms Shine a Ray of Hope on Bees and Butterflies, by Jodi Helmer, Scientific American
A trend of planting wildflowers on solar sites could maintain habitat for disappearing bees and butterflies.

Photo: Kearney’s solar farm consisting of approximately 23,000 panels on 53 acres located in the city’s technology park, Tech oNE Crossing, is Nebraska’s largest ground-mounted solar project, to date. Credit: Developer, SoCore Energy
Installer: Interconnection Systems based in Central City, Nebraska

Another distinguishing feature of Kearney’s Solar Farm is that it is a nationally-recognized pollinator-friendly site, benefiting local food producers. 

Previously posted links to information of potential interest to other Nebraska communities that have developed or plan to develop a solar farm:

In bid to help bees, Xcel to require vegetation disclosure in solar RFPs

By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

[Xcel Energy Minnesota] plans to add 2,600 MW to 3,000 MW of solar generation by 2030 and all those projects will be required to disclose a completed copy scorecard for pollinator-friendly sites. Pollinator-friendly vegetation isn’t required in order for a project to be considered by the utility, but it will establish a precedent “of priorities and values,” Rob Davis, director of the center for pollinators in energy at Fresh Energy, told Utility Dive.

Pollinator friendly solar sites are a growing trend among utilities seeking to more holistically reduce their ecological footprint. Sites are designated as “pollinator friendly” based on state legislation, which was first passed in Minnesota in 2016 and has since spread to five other states. Read more here.

Photo by Rob Davis, Fresh Energy

IN NEBRASKA

Kearney’s Solar Farm, comprising 22,464 panels on 53 acres at Tech oNE Crossing, is currently Nebraska’s largest. The 5.7-megawatt solar array’s generating capacity is enough to power about 900 houses or supply 5 percent of Kearney’s energy load.

An additional distinguishing feature of Kearney’s Solar Farm is that it is a nationally-recognized pollinator-friendly site, benefiting local food producers. Related stories:

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Photo by Engie Distributed Solar

MORE RESOURCES

 LEGISLATION

WIND ENERGY & CROPS

Iowa State University Research Finds Wind Farms Positively Impact Crops
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Pollinator habitats: The bees’ knees of rural solar development

By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

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 reading here.

Photo Credit: Rob Davis, Fresh Energy

Legislation

Windfall: Minnesota counties use wind tax money for roads, tax relief

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Minnesota’s wind energy tax is helping rural counties hold the line on levy increases and pay for road repairs and other infrastructure projects. Revenue from the state’s wind energy tax has increased more than fivefold over the past decade to $12.7 million in 2018, according to Minnesota Department of Commerce. Wind farms larger than 12 MW pay $1.20 per MWh, while smaller farms pay just 36 cents per MWh. “Wind revenue is now a key source of income for many counties, relieving the property tax burden on homeowners and businesses,” said Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman. Continue reading here.

Photo by Michael Janke of wind turbines on a Minnesota Farm

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Why solar is a ray of hope for struggling retail industry

By Yaniv Kalish, Solar Builder Magazine

The retail industry is facing challenging times. Business Insider reported that electronics, grocery stores, department stores and drug stores are among the sectors threatened by online retailers, such as Amazon. Businesses that were considered “too big to fail” such as Toys “R” Us, Payless and Radio Shack are among the 300-plus companies that filed for bankruptcy within the last year. This makes it more important than ever to control operating expenses, find ways to drive additional revenue and create a competitive difference. One of the ways that many businesses are achieving these goals is with renewable energy initiatives, and even more specifically, solar. The US has added more solar power than any other type of electricity in 2018. A recent SEIA report noted that non-residential solar, a category used when companies like AT&T and Nestle switch their electricity source to commercial solar power, was the second largest area of growth. Continue reading here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

How Land Under Solar Panels Can Contribute to Food Security

By Frank Jossi, Ensia

With more land being devoted to solar energy production, the idea of making those acres pollinator friendly seems to make ecological and economic sense. “Incorporating habitat into these solar farms across the nation is a good way to promote and protect pollinator health,” says Val Dolcini, president and CEO of the San Francisco­–based Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization promoting pollinator environments.

Under-panel native plants benefit not just their immediate solar farm surroundings but nearby cropland. Lee Walston, an ecologist at Argonne National Laboratory, says pollinating insects roam beyond solar installations to other agricultural fields, where they help increase production. Native plantings offer refuge for declining species such as monarch butterflies and rusty patched bumblebees while serving the additional purpose of controlling stormwater and erosion, he adds. Read more here.

Ensia Editor’s Note: Frank Jossi is Minnesota correspondent for Midwest Energy News, an editorially independent publication of Fresh Energy. Rob Davis, who is quoted in the article, is the director of Fresh Energy’s Center for Pollinators in Energy.

Photo Credit: Prairie Restoration Inc.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
Small as energy maker, solar farm generates big interest

Small as energy maker, solar farm generates big interest

By Mike Konz, The Kearney Hub

Mayor Stan Clouse said Kearney hopes its solar farm
enhances the city’s attraction among high-tech firms.

KEARNEY — Covering 53 acres in northeast Kearney and comprising 22,464 panels, the SoCore solar farm at the city of Kearney’s Tech oNE Crossing is Nebraska’s largest. Rated at 5.7 megawatts, the solar array’s generating capacity is enough to power about 900 houses or supply 5 percent of Kearney’s energy load . . . The University of Nebraska at Kearney bought 52 percent of the shares — enough to provide about 25 percent of the campus’ electrical needs. Central Community College’s Kearney Center just went online with 350 shares. That’s 5 percent of the solar farm’s capacity and enough power to cover all of the electrical needs at CCC’s $23 million, ultra-energy efficient facility in southwest Kearney. Read more here.

Photo Credit: SoCore Energy

Information Links
Developer: SoCore Energy
Installer: Interconnection Systems based in Central City, Nebraska
NPPD’s SunWise Initiative
SunWise is a community solar program available in participating Nebraska Public Power District retail communities.

Another distinguishing feature of Kearney’s Solar Farm is that it is a nationally-recognized pollinator-friendly site, benefiting local food producers. 

Photo by Rob Davis, Fresh Energy

NRD readies to open solar-powered, geothermal-heated greenhouse

By Steve Frederick, Scottsbluff Star Herald

SCOTTSBLUFF — The North Platte Natural Resources District broke ground Friday on a solar-powered, geothermal-heated greenhouse, which will grow crops to assist local food banks and promote NRD’s research and education missions. The greenhouse will be part of a multi-phase project to promote education, donation and explore the business potential for indoor-grown crops. Part of its mission will be aimed at helping local efforts to feed the hungry. Continue reading here.

Wikimedia Commons Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

MORE NEBRASKA NEWS