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Did you know that a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day? And bees and butterflies play a vital role in agricultural, pollinating more than one-third of all crops and supporting $20 billion in U.S. crop production? Bees, says Geoff Williams, an assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University, “are one of the most important agricultural commodities in the United States.”
Bees are also in peril. According to National Geographic, for the past 15 years, bee colonies have been disappearing in what is known as the “colony collapse disorder.” Some regions of the country have seen losses of up to 90 percent of their bee colonies. More than half of the native bee species in the United States have seen their numbers drop sharply since 2005, with almost 25 percent now at risk of extinction.
What’s behind the decline? Experts suspect factors such as climate change, pesticide use and parasites—along with shrinking habitat, largely blamed on natural landscapes being converted for agricultural use.
There is now hope from an unlikely source: the solar industry. As pollinator habitats shrink, solar installations are taking up more open land. By 2050, the United States is expected to convert six million acres of land to solar installations. The good news? Proactive solar design and installation companies like Solential see an opportunity to reclaim the land beneath the solar arrays as habitat for bees and butterflies.
The process is fairly simple. Instead installing the usual gravel or grass, Carmel, Indiana-based Solential can plant native wildflowers that attract pollinators—bees, butterflies and birds—by producing the nectar they eat. Other wildlife also benefits from the plants, the seeds they produce and year-round habitat.
Solential President Jim Shaw says that while planting natural habitat under solar arrays costs a little more upfront due to plant seed mixes, there are many long-term benefits. “First and foremost, we’re creating habitat for bees and other pollinators that are critical to our farmers and U.S. food production. Additionally, fields of wildflowers require less mowing, fertilizers and pesticides than grass, thus lower in cost to maintain.”
Shaw also says partnering solar energy production with bee habitats makes for great learning environments for school children and beautiful natural spaces for communities. “Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a field of flowers?” he asks.
Solential has installed bee habitats at solar projects throughout the Midwest. Is your project next?
If you’d like more information on Solential and how we are helping the U.S. bee population rebound, please connect with us here. It’s a story we love to share and an approach we encourage interested customers to adopt.