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Solar farms could double as pollinator food supplies

Pollinator habitats and solar farms may seem like ecologically great neighbors, but we still don't understand very much about that relationship. A team of researchers recently published a paper surveying the ins and outs of keeping solar production alongside the kinds of plants that pollinators like bees and butterflies love. The paper notes that there's a good amount of potential here, but more work needs to be done to fully understand the potential partnership.

“I think in some ways, it sounds like a no-brainer that we should be implementing pollinator habitats at these types of facilities. And on one hand, I agree with that, but I think it really does benefit us to figure out the most efficient ways to get these kinds of benefits out there,” Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's department of entomology, told Ars.

More than 100 crops in the US rely on pollinators. However, around the world, the number of pollinators has been in decline. Habitat loss is a significant reason for the decline, though there are others, including climate change and invasive species.

Currently, Illinois, Vermont, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina have enacted legislation to promote the creation of pollinator habitats alongside solar developments. These eight states have also developed scorecards to determine if a site is ideal for a habitat. Illinois, one of the first states to pursue the practice, developed its own scorecard around four years ago. Other states are newer to the party, and the rest haven't started at all.

“There isn't that much work experimentally or in terms of observational testing in these sites,” Dolezal said.

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Publication Date: 06/08/2021
Photo credits: US Fish and Wildlife Survey
Editor: Doug Johnson, Ars Technica