of Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund recently launched a new Solar Synergy program in collaboration with project partner Monarch Joint Venture. The program works directly with solar developers to strategically design and monitor high-quality pollinator habitats within utility-scale renewable energy projects. With generous financial support from corporations and foundations, this program is available to developers at no additional cost.
“Pollinators are an important keystone species in dire need of habitat,” said Peter Berthelsen, executive director of the Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund. “Through this program, we will not only work with solar developers to improve pollinator health and habitats, but also a range of critical environmental and sustainability initiatives, including carbon sequestration, improved soil health, and better water. You get a great opportunity to offer the benefits of quality and more.”
The new Solar Synergy program consists of uniquely designed deliverables that deliver four key benefits to renewable energy projects.
- High-Value Pollinator Seed Mixtures: This program uses NextGen Conservation custom seed mixes designed with over 15 different factors and project objectives in mind. This not only ensures that the objectives of the solar project are met, but also ensures that the project provides significant benefits to pollinator health and habitat. Each project uses two different seed mixtures. One for use within a solar array area designed to function at each project’s solar panel height and another for use in project buffers or open areas. Over 40 different native wildflower species. These next-generation seed mixes not only promote biodiversity, but also significantly enhance soil health and improve water quality within solar power plants.
- Widespread monitoring of pollinator health: Documenting the results of these projects is more important than ever, given that the numbers of pollinators, including monarch butterflies and honey bees, have declined significantly. It is Monarch Joint Venture collects baseline and ongoing pollinator and habitat information for Solar Synergy program sites annually. An extensive list of health and habitat outcomes is monitored and recorded, including floral resources used by pollinators within the habitat, pollinator species present, and milkweed abundance, a key resource for monarch butterflies. . The overall presence of pollinators as well as other wildlife such as grassland songbirds is expected to increase.
- Documented carbon sequestration: The ability of these solar plants to sequester significant amounts of carbon through the use of carefully engineered seed mixtures is an additional environmental benefit of the programme. Baseline and continuous carbon measurements are used to document increases in carbon sequestration. The program helps connect potential carbon credit purchasers to each project. The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund has entities already lining up to purchase carbon credits that may be made available at the site.
- Increased Opportunities for Honey Production: Actual domestic honey consumption has declined by just 25% over the past decade. One of the biggest reasons for declining U.S. honey production is lack of access to quality forage and bee habitat. The Solar Synergy Program presents a unique opportunity to bring together solar project developers and commercial beekeepers as it creates a large amount of high quality pollinator habitat at the project site. Increasing beekeeper access to quality pollinator habitat can create opportunities to increase domestically sourced honey production.
“Overall, we couldn’t be more excited about this program and the interest already shown by both solar developers and end users,” said Berthelsen. “The potential for positive environmental impact using this multi-benefit approach is amazing, and the fact that we are able to provide these critical services and support for developers at no charge is a piece of cake. “By combining our expertise with pollinators and working with the renewable energy industry, we can make a big difference in clean energy generation while documenting pollinator health and habitat success.”
Announcement from Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund