Encore Renewable Energy, a company that specializes in the design, development, financing, approval and construction of solar and energy storage projects, and Greenbacker, a limited partnership that carries corporate debt and equity interests in sustainable infrastructure development companies, have signed a new contract Agreement concluded for the completion of 14 solar projects with a total output of 28 MW and pollinator-friendly land cover.
This initiative builds on the recently announced partnership and offers the opportunity to provide more than 200 hectares of habitat needed to increase populations of pollinators such as bees and monarch butterflies. These important species, which are critical to the health of our future food supplies, are in decline due to widespread use of insecticides and herbicides, as well as habitat loss from climate change and land development activities. These new pollinator-friendly solar locations will support diverse and healthy pollinator populations with a diverse mix of native grasses and flowering plants.
“This agreement is the perfect example of a successful triple bottom line business,” said Chad Farrell, Founder and CEO of Encore Renewable Energy. “We are creating environmentally friendly land cover that improves soil quality, fixes roots in the ground and directs rainwater back into the aquifers below – while also taking into account the social importance of supporting healthy food systems. These impacts will go beyond the boundaries of any of these solar projects and support other species that rely on high pollinator populations, including birds, fish, other animals, and ultimately all of us. “
The higher upfront cost of establishing pollinator-friendly land cover in Vermont and Maine is offset by long-term savings for vegetative management. Pollinator-friendly soil cover in solar sites also allows for healthy plant soil cover that will shade the soil and create cooler soil conditions that can mitigate the negative effects of heat on solar energy production. Eventually, the local communities around these projects will benefit as well, as research shows that pollinator-friendly solar locations can increase the yields of some nearby crops.
Scientists predict that farmers and other landowners will lease more than 2 million acres of land for photovoltaic solar projects by 2030 – an increase from around 300,000 acres today. But these facilities are becoming more and more like traditional farms every year. With support from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Solar Energy Technologies, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are researching environmentally friendly, low-impact development designs that provide dual benefits and benefits for agriculture and ecosystems.
The NREL study, called InSPIRE, also shows how environmentally friendly solar designs can reduce costs and increase operational efficiency by reducing the amount of mowing and creating a cooler microclimate beneath the panels. More than a dozen states have land-use standards in place to encourage pollinator-friendly land cover under and around the panels of solar panels from a few to a few thousand acres.