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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Pollinator-Friendly Solar Bill Passes Unanimously: The new bill represents an opportunity to advance solar energy while also addressing the threat of pollinator extinction, promoting the use of native plants and supporting local farmers.

Jun 29, 2018 01:31AM

Pollinator habitats under solar panels

The New York State Assembly and Senate has passed the Pollinator Friendly Solar Act, an agricultural bill to establish a statewide standard for planting pollinator habitats under ground-mounted solar panel arrays. Advocates say the unanimous passage of act shows the state’s strong commitment to advancing the development of clean solar energy and supporting endangered pollinator species.

Pollinator friendly solar is the practice of adding attractive, pollinator-friendly native plantings under and around ground-mounted solar panels, instead of the typical gravel, concrete or turf. The new bill represents an opportunity to advance solar energy while also addressing the threat of pollinator extinction, promoting the use of native plants and supporting local farmers.

Over the past year, Bedford 2020, a local grassroots group that advocates for sustainability, has been leading the effort to bring pollinator friendly solar to New York State. Last April, it introduced to New York the pioneering program, which was originally initiated in Minnesota by the nonprofit Fresh Energy. In 2016, the Minnesota program yielded more than 2,300 acres of pollinator friendly solar. This is the equivalent of installing a six-by-twelve-foot pollinator garden in the backyard of every one of Minnesota’s 1.4 million single-family homes.

Bedford 2020 is currently developing a demonstration program in New York State to develop best practices for pollinator friendly solar at a variety of sites, including landfills, brownfields, farms, private properties, schools and corporate headquarters. It will be working with a diverse group of solar developers and researchers to learn about optimum soil conditions, plant material and pollinator response. The first demonstration site was planted last month at 5-Spoke Creamery, a small, all-solar farm in Goshen that raises grass-fed cows and produces raw milk cheese. The site was planted by community volunteers, who used native plant seeds and plugs supplied by Prairie Restorations, a Minnesota company with 40 years’ experience in restoration landscape work.

To learn more about Bedford 2020 and its work to advance pollinator friendly solar in New York, email [email protected] or 914.620.2411.

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