One of the benefits of solar farms is the land they’re on can still be used for other things if designed properly. Case in point, Cornell University partnered with Cypress Creek Renewables to study how planting wildflowers at solar farms can help establish bee colonies and fight their decline.
“Efforts to increase the forage available to pollinators are critical to improving the sustainability of honeybees and other essential pollinators,” said Karen Sabath, co-founder of Hudson Valley Natural Beekeepers. “It is thrilling that Cornell University and Cypress Creek are taking an important step toward better understanding the ecological, agricultural and economic benefits of pollinator-friendly solar farms in New York.”
Cornell said that bees and other pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds contribute an estimated $500 million in value by pollinating alfalfa, apples, beans, blueberries, cherries, pumpkins, squash and strawberries in New York. It is believed that loss of habitat is one of the causes of pollinator decline.
There are 412 species of wild bees in New York, according to Cornell. One of those species, the rust-patched bumblebee, was recently placed on the federal endangered species list. Another 53 bee species are experiencing population declines in the state and 42 others are considered vulnerable.
According to Cornell, this hasn’t been studied in the US at this point. However, it has been studied elsewhere, including in Great Britain, and wildflowers at solar farms have shown a positive effect on pollinators and biodiversity.
The three-year, $100,000 study aims to show whether wildflower plantings at solar farms will boost pollinators—focussing particularly on rare and threatened bees. It also will study whether those wildflower plantings at solar farms will boost visitation to nearby crop flowers. If so, they could help produce a greater yield of crops that rely on pollination, helping farmers produce more.
The study will take place across sites in central New York and the Hudson Valley. “My lab at Cornell is excited to team up with Cypress Creek on a groundbreaking study to quantify and assess the benefits of wildflower plantings on solar farms in New York,” said Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology, who is leading the research. “Cypress Creek’s commitment to establish approximately 1,000 acres of pollinator habitat, while at the same time assessing the best ways to design that habitat, is truly visionary and a fantastic example of industry commitment to pollinator conservation and health.”
“In addition to generating clean, affordable energy, solar farms present an exciting opportunity to support pollinators and agricultural communities,” said Cate Parker, associate director of community partnerships at Cypress Creek. “We are delighted to partner with Scott McArt and Cornell University to quantify—for the first time in the United States—the local benefits of pollinator-friendly solar farms.”Tweet