New NC Pollinator Group Offers Solar-Farm Guidance

By Antionette Kerr

DURHAM, N.C. – The buzz about the demise of honeybees, birds, monarch butterflies and other crucial pollinators has prompted the creation of a North Carolina Pollinator Conservation Alliance.

North Carolina is second in the country for installed solar capacity, and the alliance is offering technical assistance to solar farm developers on the types of plants that work well on solar farms.

Although it isn’t quite planting season, Liz Kalies, director of science for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina, says the cost effective advice comes just in time to plan for vegetation that nurtures pollinators.

“You know, the pollinator piece of this is sort of the immediate return,” she points out. “So, when you think about putting in native vegetation at these solar farms, pollinators will respond really quickly.

“You can get more bang for your buck if you put in pollinator-attracting species that are going to make a difference in the short term.”

Almost one-third of the food and fiber crops grown worldwide depend on pollinators for reproduction, but many pollinator species are under threat from disease, pesticides and loss of habitat.

In North Carolina, several butterfly species are already considered threatened or endangered.

The new alliance is led by the state’s Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Its guidance includes a compatible plant list specific to North Carolina for planting native pollinator habitats.

According to Kalies, the alliance is pooling a variety of resources to bring assistance to solar farm developers.

“There were a bunch of people all really interested in how we can make solar farms more wildlife and insect friendly, and everybody was sort of doing their own thing and talking to different players,” she states. “We weren’t organized about it. So, we wanted a better and more coherent message to bring to these developers.”

She says pollinator friendly solar farms can add plant diversity to the landscape and attract pollinators at the same time North Carolina grows its clean energy future.

The North Carolina Pollinator Conservation Alliance plans to expand its education and outreach in the new year.

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