Study finds solar farms support and boost pollinator populations

While new habitats for vulnerable pollinators are dwindling, if land owners allow meadows to grow around the installed solar panels, these areas will become thriving pollinator habitats, researchers said.

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Solar farms could boost bumblebee population a new study finds. Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK discovered that installing solar farms could be greatly beneficial to supporting and boosting pollinator populations such as bees.

While new habitats for vulnerable pollinators are dwindling, if land owners allow meadows to grow around the installed solar panels, these areas will become thriving pollinator habitats, researchers said.

“Our findings provide the first quantitative evidence that solar parks could be used as a conservation tool to support and boost pollinator populations. If they are managed in a way that provides resources, solar parks could become [a] valuable bumble bee habitat,” Hollie Blaydes, associate lecturer and doctorate student at the university, said. “In the UK, pollinator habitat has been established on some solar parks, but there is currently little understanding of the effectiveness of these interventions. Our findings provide solar park owners and managers with evidence to suggest that providing floral and nesting resources for bumble bees could be effective.”

The research was conducted by using a geographic information system (GIS) to create solar parks of different sizes, shapes and management approaches based on real UK examples in real UK landscapes, according to the study. In order test their finings from the model used to “understand how solar park management could impact bumble bee density within solar parks and surrounding areas,” the researches collected data “on real-world solar parks to better understand pollinator response to management schemes.”

Land managed as meadows offers the most resources and would “support four times as many bumblebees as solar park land managed as turf grass”, according to the research. This boost in bumblebees from solar farms would also provide benefits to nearby crops after researchers discovered bumblebee density up to 1km outside of the parks themselves.

The study will be present the work at Ecology Across Borders—a conference where more than 1000 ecologists discuss the most recent breakthroughs in ecology—and is currently under peer review.

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