A solar-array project unveiled in Carlisle on Monday will not only generate renewable power, but will also provide real benefits for local farms and pollinator insects.
The seven-acre pollinator-friendly solar array will provide power to the headquarters of Giant Foods, a major supermarket chain. Under and around the panels, the site also will provide ample space for a variety of native plants such as butterfly milkweed and blue mistflower, selected to attract the pollinating insects critical to nearby farms.
According to Center for Pollinators and Energy director Rob Davis, this pollinator solar array will serve as a model for projects anticipated to be developed over the next 10 years.
“More than 3 million acres of land will be used for ground-mount solar projects,” Davis said. “So, the project we build today will inform all of the best solar practices we use tomorrow and next year and the year after that.”
The project is the first pollinator-friendly solar array to open in Pennsylvania.
Robin Ernst is president of Ernst Pollinator Service, which designed the seed mix and planted the seeds at the solar array. She said the plantings will have multiple benefits for the site.
“By being revegetated with native pollinators, we’re able to help build those soils. We have stronger root systems in place that will help with runoff, add beautification and provide habitat for our pollinators,” Ernst said.
She said the flowering plant species will be in bloom by the summer of 2021 and the meadow should be fully functional the following year.
Davis said the project shows that any city, county, company or organization can plan and build a pollinator solar array by following what he called a “pollinator-friendly scorecard.”
“The scorecard is a flexible, science-based tool that demonstrates that within the managed landscape of a solar farm, there’s enough flowers and flowering vegetation to provide a meaningful benefit for pollinators at scale,” Davis said.
Pollinator-friendly scorecards can be downloaded at beeslovesolar.org.