Empowering Biodiversity on Solar Farms
Solar farms are embedded in the agricultural landscape. In addition to electrical power, they can also be used as refuge habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Wildflowers can provide floral provisioning for native pollinating insects. A project by UGA horticulturists focuses on finding the best performing plants, and formulating guidelines, including economics and management of the plant-technology enterprise, for cost-effective, long-term success. In collaboration with private solar companies and two federal agencies, UGA scientists established a research site at the 25-acre Carter solar farm facility in Plains, Georgia. They are testing wildflower species mixes under standard bed preparation methods and recommended maintenance regimes. They are analyzing inputs and measuring habitat establishment and success over several seasons. Species were selected for adaptability to southeastern growing conditions, bloom period, growth habit, annual and perennial life cycle, and high floral provisioning. Data from the year immediately following seeding showed high emergence of Indian blanketflower, black- and brown-eyed Susan and partridge pea. These species also showed great potential for establishing from seed and self-sustaining under the solar panels.