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Solar Could Help Save Bees


By Naomi Millán Facilities Management
Solar panels with field of wildflowers in front

By cultivating wildflowers and other native habitats around ground-mounted solar panel installations, facility managers responsible for these installations could help provide critical habitat to threatened pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, according to research from Argonne National Laboratory.

Normally, the area around ground-mounted solar panels is landscaped with gravel or turf grass. Switching to native plantings, such as prairie grasses and wildflowers, could restore pollinator habitats that would help nearby agricultural areas that depend heavily on pollinators for the productivity of their crops, including almonds, soybeans, and cranberries, say researchers. The positive influence of such habitats near their fields in turn could make agricultural communities more amenable to large-scale solar installations.

Using native plants around solar panels instead of turf grass also could decrease facility maintenance costs, though that benefit was not quantified in the original research. States such as Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota already have passed legislation to optimize solar installations for pollinator habitats.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management.

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