Vermont solar expands state's pollinator habitat

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Vermont solar expands state's pollinator habitat

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 11:21am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine This summer marked a major milestone for Vermont solar’s collaborative efforts to restore pollinator habitat in our state. In July, Middlebury-based REV Member, Bee the Change teamed up with REV Member Green Lantern Solar to install its twentieth pollinator-friendly solar field on a 4.5 acre site in New Haven, Vermont. The site will soon host dozens of species of plants designed to attract native and migratory pollinator insects and beneficial bird species.

 

Prior to REV’s pollinator solar pledge in 2017, most Vermont solar fields were covered with hay or turf grass. Following guidance from biologists at UVM Agricultural Extension, the Gund Institute for the Environment and Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, pollinator-friendly projects now utilize land under solar arrays and power lines to create habitat for native pollinators. Pollinators are a crucial part of any ecosystem, and their decline has spurred action across many sectors, including Vermont’s robust renewable energy sector.

Mike Kiernan, founder of Bee the Change celebrated the accomplishment. “We are teaming up with the most forward-thinking renewable leaders who want to see the space be doubly useful, to address both climate change and the crisis of species loss. We began a few years ago in a field just south of Middlebury. With the spaces coming on line in the next year, we will have built habitat equivalent to every Vermont household making a 6’ x 6’ pollinator garden. And they should, too!”

Habitat loss is one of the principal reasons pollinator populations are near collapse worldwide. As parking lots, residential lawns, sprawl development and roads take over meadows and woodlands where native species once thrived, our pollinators struggle to find the resources they need. A 2018 study by researchers at the University of Vermont and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies found that nearly half of Vermont’s known bumble bee species have either vanished or are in serious decline. The Agency of Natural Resources encourages Vermonters to take action by choosing to plant a variety of native plants and wildflowers wherever possible.

Several Vermont businesses and organizations have committed to pollinator-friendly practices, including REV Members Acorn Energy Co-op, Aegis Renewable Energy, All Earth Renewables, Catamount Solar, EDF Renewables (formerly GroSolar), Encore Renewables, Green Lantern Group, Grassroots Solar, Green Mountain Power, and VSECU.

Sam Carlson of Green Lantern Solar, described his company’s recent collaboration with Bee the Change. “We have seen increasing populations of insects, birds, bees and butterflies over the past three years at our first solar project with Bee the Change.  We wanted to build on the success of our first project with Bee the Change and demonstrate that solar projects in Vermont can and do improve pollinator-friendly habitat, which is so vital to Vermont's agricultural productivity and landscapes.  In this way we produce both clean, Vermont-made solar electricity and increase critically important pollinator populations, a great use of the land.”

Pollinator-friendly planting is part of a win-win-win strategy for Vermont solar projects and landowners, supporting clean energy, agriculture, and pollinators. By using the land under and around solar arrays for native pollinator-friendly plants, Vermont solar energy can play a significant role in re-establishing critical pollinator habitats and mitigating the threat to bees and birds, which are essential crop pollinators.

Fortunately, you can support pollinators even if you don’t have property to plant your own habitat. For a fee of $0.11/square foot, Bee the Change will offset your footprint by planting habitat equal to the square footage of your residential or business space. Several of Vermont’s leading B-Corps have already signed on as well as over 200 other organizations and individuals.  

Guidance is available from the UVM Extension office for landowners hosting solar projects. Businesses planning new solar projects are encouraged to take the pollinator pledge and complete a Pollinator Scorecard to provide transparent guidance for vegetative management plans using pollinator-friendly plants.

For more information, visit Renewable Energy Vermont at https://www.revermont.org/resources/pollinatorsolar/ or Bee the Change at https://www.beethechangehoney.com/.

Photo credit: Mike Kiernan at Bee the Change. 

About Renewable Energy Vermont

Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) represents businesses, non-profits, utilities, and individuals committed to eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Vermont’s clean energy economy supports at least 18,800 sustainable jobs, representing approximately 6% of Vermont’s workforce.  Together, we will achieve 100% total renewable energy (electric, thermal, transportation).  Join us at www.revermont.org.

About Bee the Change

Bee the Change is a not-for-profit with fields in the Northeast US. They were the first in the nation pursuing this and there are now programs in over 20 states. Nationally they are working with the Pollinator Partnership, and locally with the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont. They are also bringing education into schools and other settings and bringing groups to fields designed to tell the story of renewable energy and pollinators. The first of these demonstration fields has been installed at Rock Point in Burlington, Vermont, and other installations are underway. Learn more at www.beethechangehoney.com .

Source: Montpelier, VT – Renewable Energy Vermont 9.3.2020