What do you get when you combine sunshine, honey bees and butterflies?
A lovely spring day?
Well, yes, but two University of Minnesota professors have something even more interesting in mind.
They want to combine the building of more solar energy farms with creating friendly habitats to support our plant-pollinating bee and butterfly friends here in Minnesota.
Solar energy installations are burgeoning across the state. During the next two construction seasons about 2,500 acres will be dedicated to new solar farms. Two of the world’s most respected experts on butterflies and bees see this as an opportunity.
Dr. Marla Spivak and Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota have worked out a plan to bring nationwide attention to creating more pollinator habitat – and they see solar farms as a prime opportunity to make it happen.
While solar farms generate pollution-free, clean energy, the ground around them can be seeded with those plants and wildflowers most attractive to bees and butterflies. They carry the heavy and essential workload of pollinating the plants we all depend upon to eat.
Bees and butterflies have never been more endangered. Colony collapse disorder among bees remains a serious problem, and butterfly populations have never been lower.
In fact, the situation is frightening. In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report which estimated that, since 1990, some 970 million monarchs have vanished. There was once an estimated billion monarch’s in the United States during summer months – that number has dwindled to an alarming 30 million. See report: BUTTERFLIES
That’s a 90 percent drop in the monarch population.
A key factor is habitat. Solar array sites may be ideal for planting pollinator friendly native grasses, rather than laying down gravel or dirt, which is common for solar installations. Also shipping gravel is costly; seeding with native plants is a much cheaper alternative.
The 2,500 acres of planned solar farms area, if planted with friendly bee and butterfly habitat, would be the equivalent of 750,000 12×12’ backyard pollinator gardens.
According to FRESH ENERGY, a Minnesota clean energy advocacy organization, that the same as a pollinator garden in more than half of every single family home in the entire state — and maintaining it for 25 years. Source
Here is what you can do to help right now:
A crowd funding site, INDIEGOGO, is hosting a fund raising campaign seeking $5,500 to get the ball rolling on the solar habitat plan. You can find the site here:POLLINATOR
As of Monday, April 20, there are two days left in the campaign. You still have time to go there and contribute to the fund, which as of this writing, was still $445 short of its $5,500 goal.
This money is being called the “Base Goal” which is to buy advertising in a national solar trade magazine. The “Stretch Goal” is to then raise an additional $24,000 to get the word out ever further through more advertising.
The ultimate goal is to get those firms which build and install solar farms to adopt a policy of creating bee and butterfly habitat around the solar arrays rather than surround them with gravel or other inert or non-bee and butterfly plant vegetation (such as ordinary grass).
The result could be tens of thousands of new acres of badly needed habitat for bee and monarchs, both of which are facing the most serious challenge to their very existence in known human history.
If the bees and butterflies vanish, so will the source of pollinating the food sources all of us depend upon to eat.