Engineering utility-scale PV installations that are “pollinator-friendly”

It hadn’t occurred to me that there might not be enough acreage to support utility-scale solar electricity.  It turns out that not everyone wants a PV farm in their backyard. And I hadn’t considered the trade-off between lots of available sunshine (Death Valley) and lots of electricity users (not Death Valley).  So….PV site developers have figured out some ways of making their installations more neighbor-friendly.

“Conventional solar installation techniques typically involve turf grass and gravel as ground cover, which removes vegetation and flattens landscapes, according …. These methods lead to high preparation and labor costs, expected to account for 20% of the price of photovoltaic installations by 2020.

“Conversely, seeding solar grounds with native plant species provides agricultural and ecological benefits that gravel and turf cannot, such as better stormwater control because of plants’ deeper roots. Seeding can also boost solar efficiency by creating a cooler microclimate around the panels, which boosts solar efficiency, said Gavin Meinschein, a lead civil engineer at ENGIE Distributed Solar.Although the upfront costs for seeding are higher than installation of turf grass, the maintenance over projects’ 25-30 year lifespan is cheaper because it’s less involved, Meinschein said.Native plant sites can double as pollinator-friendly sites, an “irresistible synergy,” said John Jacob, who founded Old Sol Apiairies in 1997 and now works with solar developers to integrate bee farms and solar developments.The pollinator benefit is a specific twist to the story that has gotten buzz in local and national media.” ….Story continues…..

Source: Pollinator habitats: The bees’ knees of rural solar development | Utility Dive

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