Vermont Solar Companies Expand Pollinator Habitat Footprint on Photovoltaic Panels


Vermont Solar Power marked a milestone this summer in collaborative efforts to restore pollinator habitat in the state. Bee the change and Solar Green Lanternmembers of Vermont Renewable Energy (REV), have partnered to install a pollinator-friendly solar field on a 4.5-acre site in New Haven. The site will soon be home to dozens of plant species intended to attract native and migrating pollinating insects and beneficial bird species.

Mike Kiernan, Bee the Change

Prior to REV’s Pollinator Solar Pledge in 2017, most solar fields in Vermont were covered in hay or grass. Following advice from biologists at the University of Vermont Agricultural Extension, the Gund Institute for the Environment and the Vermont Natural Resources Agency, pollinator-friendly projects are now using land under solar panels and power lines. electricity to create habitat for native pollinators.

Pollinators are a crucial part of any ecosystem, and their decline has spurred action in many sectors, including Vermont’s strong renewable energy sector.

“We partner with the most forward-thinking renewable energy leaders who want space to do double duty, to address both climate change and the crisis of species loss,” said
Mike Kiernan, founder of Bee the Change. “We started a few years ago in a field just south of Middlebury. With the spaces coming online next year, we will have built a habitat equivalent to every household in Vermont making a 6 foot by 6 foot pollinator garden. And they should too.

Habitat loss is one of the main reasons why pollinator populations are nearing collapse around the world. As parking lots, residential lawns, sprawling development, and roads invade grasslands and woodlands where native species once thrived, pollinator species struggle to find the resources they need.

A 2018 study by researchers from the University of Vermont and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies found that nearly half of Vermont’s known bumblebee species are either extinct or in serious decline. The Natural Resources Agency encourages Vermonters to take action by choosing to plant a variety of native plants and wildflowers whenever possible.

Mike Kiernan, Bee the change.

Several Vermont businesses and organizations have committed to adopting pollinator-friendly practices, including REV members Acorn Energy Co-op, Aegis Renewable Energy, All Earth Renewables, Catamount Solar, EDF Renewables (formerly GroSolar), Encore Renewables, Green Lantern Group, Grassroots Solar, Green Mountain Power and VSECU.

“We have seen an increase in populations of insects, birds, bees and butterflies over the past three years during our first solar project with Bee the Change,” said Sam Carlson of Green Lantern Solar. “We wanted to build on the success of our first project with Bee the Change and demonstrate that solar projects in Vermont can and do improve the pollinator-friendly habitat that is so vital to Vermont’s agricultural productivity and landscapes. In this way, we are both generating clean, Vermont-made solar electricity and increasing populations of critically important pollinators – a great use of the land.

Pollinator-friendly planting is part of a win-win strategy for Vermont solar projects and landowners, supporting clean energy, agriculture, and pollinators. By using the land under and around solar panels for native pollinator-friendly plants, Vermont Solar Power can play an important role in restoring critical pollinator habitats and mitigating the threat to bees and birds. , which are essential crop pollinators.

Guidance is available from the UVM Extension office for landowners hosting solar projects. Companies planning new solar projects are encouraged to take the Pollinator Pledge and complete a Pollinator Scorecard to provide transparent guidance for vegetative management plans using pollinator-friendly plants.

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