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Pollinator-focused solar arrays, a planet friendly project of Science Magazine

Paula Carlsen

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The 9.9 MW Eagle Point Solar project is located on 41 acres of agricultural land that was previously used for dairy grazing and completed in the late 2017. Research performed by Oregon State University at the site describes the project as a 'planet-friendly energy source'.

The developer of the project, Pine Gate Renewables, acquired the project shortly after launching its Solar Culture initiative to protect and preserve the agricultural land on which solar farms exist, to help native plants and animals thrive. This project promotes sustainable agriculture, collaboration with communities, and research for intelligent solar development.

The project plan is to seed the site with native flowers and grasses underneath the tracking photovoltaic (PV) panels in two-portrait configuration. Researches found that the shade provided by solar panels increased the abundance of flowers under the panels and delayed the timing of the plants' bloom. So, the project could aid the agricultural community.

After the vegetation was completed in 2018, John Jacob, an owner of bee farms, made an agreement with Pine Gate to allow him to place a few dozen hives on the perimeter of the solar system. Now those hives have more than 3000 colonies and have more productivities compared to the time before join forces.

Pine Gate spent more up-front on pollinator-friendly seed, planning, and labor compared to using turfgrass. This is because the long-term savings on mowing and maintenance will make the vegetation cheaper over the lifetimes of the project. The Eagle Point only needs to be mowed about once per year, while turf grass required four or more mows per year.

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