An overwhelming 75% of the world’s flowering plants and 35% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators, the tenacious insects that ultimately provide us with the nutrients vital to our planet and food web. Sadly, humans have been eliminating many of the flowering plant species essential for pollinators’ survival. From pesticides and pathogens to lack of adequate nutrition and habitat loss, populations are declining at an alarming rate.
At Nexamp, we are stewards of the land where our solar farms operate, giving us the opportunity to help reverse this trend. So, here’s the buzz on pollinators and the work we’re doing to help these needed organisms.
What are pollinators:
Generally speaking, pollinators are insects that travel from plant to plant exchanging pollen, resulting in the making of flowers, fruits and seeds. Take the honey bee for example – these social insects are found all over the world, pollinating over 100 crops! There are dozens of other organisms that partake in this natural phenomenon – bee species, butterflies, flies, beetles and even birds!
Why are pollinators important:
When it comes to creating as well as preserving habitats for a number of species, (yes, including humans) that rely on food and shelter, pollinators are crucial. Simply put, without pollinators our diets would severely lack nutrients. Most of our diets have been touched by pollinators in some form or another. That goes for you too, carnivores. The meat that's consumed by humans comes from animals that have grazed on pollinator plants throughout its lifetime, like alfalfa, one of the primary foods for livestock.
How can solar help pollinators:
When we think of solar, we often think of solar panels on the roof of a home, or a solar array on a municipal building, basking in the sun. But not all homes and buildings are suitable for solar panels. Ground mounted solar farms are a big part of the new energy economy due to a combination of economic need, climate change, and a desire to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Despite the positive impact of solar, some communities have voiced understandable concern about how much land is being used for these solar projects, and if they are a productive use of agricultural land.
Fortunately, the integration of pollinator-friendly habitats is an opportunity to expand a solar farm’s usefulness and help create an environment for our hard-working friends. Botanists, engineers and agriculturalists can design pollinator-friendly seed mixes of low growing flowers and native vegetation around and underneath solar arrays while incorporating taller species of vegetation on the outside boundaries of the solar fields.
At Nexamp, management of the land is a top priority when developing our solar farms. We support and encourage integrating pollinator seed mix into our solar farms. Some pollinator-friendly species exist as the underlying vegetation at our operating projects in Hadley, MA and Whately, MA.
Furthermore, Nexamp will be planting similar vegetation at its upcoming Massachusetts projects in Whately, Wales, Plainfield, and Wendell. Pollinator species include Black-eyed Susans, Butterfly Milkweed, Early Goldenrod, and Heath Aster.
But wait, there's more! Not only is it good for pollinators – compared to gravel or turf, deep-rooted native plants capture rainwater trickling off solar panels, guiding the water right down into the Earth's natural aquifers, breaking down compressed soils while adding organic matter and cultivating the quality of soil over the lifetime of a solar project.
At Nexamp, we’re excited about how pollinators can make our solar farms more environmentally friendly. And we’re always open to suggestions from the public about how to improve the incorporation of native species that will provide the greatest benefit and ensure a sustainable environment for surrounding plants, local pollinator friends and our planet. Got more buzz on helping out? Reach out to us via Facebook or Twitter!