Randolph County in eastern Indiana has adopted a first-ever solar energy ordinance that includes a pollinator-friendly provision ahead of the construction of Indiana’s largest solar farm.
Indiana solar (and bees)
EDP Renewables’ Riverstart Solar Park will have an installed capacity of 200 megawatts (MW), which is capable of powering around 36,000 homes. The project will cost $180 million and create hundreds of full-time jobs during construction and several permanent jobs.
Riverstart includes a land stewardship provision that requires the groundcover of this solar farm, and future solar farms in Randolph County, to be native meadow grasses and pollinator-friendly wildflower plants and/or clover. This is to encourage the presence and health of bees, which are crucial for pollination.
Purdue University entomologist Dr. Brock Harpur wrote in a letter to county officials ahead of the decision (via Solar Power World):
A recent study found that more than 50,000 acres of our Indiana conservation lands — healthy habitat for wildlife — were converted to row crop fields over an eight-year period. During this same time, the health of Indiana pollinators has plummeted. Native pollinator species numbers are lower than the number needed to pollinate crops, and managed species, such as honey bees, experience greater than average losses each year (as many as 63% of colonies are lost annually in Indiana). Among the primary causes of pollinator decline is habitat loss.
Conservation groups Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever said:
Large-scale solar projects proposed in Indiana have, so far, overlooked a critical opportunity to provide additional — and urgently needed — agricultural and ecological benefits. We see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to encourage land use and stewardship practices that provide healthy food sources for beneficial insects and improve the quality of our precious Indiana soils.
Randolph County, Indiana, is to be commended for making such a simple yet incredibly impactful decision. Not only is it adapting solar, which provides clean energy for hundreds of thousands of homes, it’s using that land efficiently by requiring bee-friendly plants.
Bees are crucial for human existence. As Greenpeace USA points out, “Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees.” Honey bees perform around 80% of all pollination worldwide.
Humans are largely responsible for the two main causes of the decimation of the bee population with pesticides and habitat loss. So to create a new habitat is a great initiative, and it should be encouraged everywhere.
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