Pollinator-Smart Solar Facilities Foster Sustainable Energy Practices

Virginia Solar Program Leads the Way

June 23, 2020

Bee pollinating flower

Incorporating pollinator-attracting native plants underneath the panels and into the available space around solar sites is one approach to finding responsible solutions to energy needs and developing innovative, sustainable energy practices. A smart pollinator system creates a thriving ecosystem for pollinator species like bees, birds, and other wildlife while also providing clean energy and enhancing facility efficiency.

VHB partnered with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Natural Heritage, and several prominent solar-pollinator teammates* from across the country to develop the Virginia Pollinator-Smart Solar Industry program. (*Fresh Energy, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Meadville Land Service/Ernst Pollinator Service, Dramby Environmental Consulting, Pollinator Partnership, and Prairie Restorations).

This certification program includes a series of recommendations and resources for solar energy developers to plan, build, and monitor solar facilities that attract pollinators, lessen stormwater impacts, and increase the visual appeal of the installations.

At Cople Elementary in Hague, Virginia, the VHB Team reviewed seed mix design, wrote a vegetation management plan, and broke down the steps needed to build and maintain the installation. VHB also confirmed that the project complied with the state’s program, which led to the school’s Gold Certified designation—the first such certification in Virginia.

When working with stakeholders, scientists, and environmental policy leaders, VHB strives to develop smart solar programs designed to incentivize the solar industry to adopt a native plant strategy.  Pollinator-smart solar facilities can help foster sustainability by not only meeting energy needs, but also through economic development, community enhancement, and healthy food production. Learn more from Energy Market Leader Kris Dramby, CWB, PWS, CE, in VHB Viewpoints: Catalyst for Change.