The world’s bees are in big trouble — even more than you might have realized.
For more than a century Logansport’s electricity was generated using gritty black coal. Now, its latest generating facility will feature 80 acres of solar panels, and something far more attractive — flowers.
The plan is part of a national trend to use solar farms to create habitats for hundreds of buzzing bee and butterfly species whose numbers have been depleted by habitat destruction.
Solar projects with habitats such as these, called pollinator-friendly solar projects, have been lauched in 20 states, according to the Center for Pollinators in Energy. At least three new pollinator-friendly solar projects have been announced in Indiana this year.
The practice is described by developers as a a way to accomplish multiple goals at once, namely strengthening renewable energy and expanding natural habitats.
Habitat loss and exposure to chemicals such as pesticides have killed off large portions of bee, butterfly, fly, and beetle populations. Numbers of honeybees, one of the most widely tracked pollinator species because of their contributions to the food supply, are falling by as much as 30 percent each winter in the U.S. and in Indiana.
At the same time, the solar industry is booming. Solar installation is expected to be the fastest growing job in coming years, and the country is on track to double its solar capacity in just half a decade. Indiana, which currently ranks in the top half of states for solar capacity, is expected to follow this trend.
While one solar site with pollinating plants isn’t likely to make a dent in the widespread habitat losses affecting bees and butterflies, a lot of sites could provide real benefit for these creatures, Purdue University entomologist Brock Harpur said.
“We need solutions that do more than one thing,” Harpur said. “We have to say yes, we need solar, but we can also do it while we save the bees … it’s exciting to be able to do two things at once and feel like it’s making a difference.”
The Logansport project, to be completed by Inovateus Solar, was announced Friday to coincide with National Pollinator Week. Hoosier companies Emergent Solar Energy and Solential Energy have also recently completed pollinator-friendly projects, and Duke Energy also sewed a native wildflowers at a solar farm in Indiana this spring.
‘We can really buffer the species we have left’
Constructing a solar farm often requires removing vegetation, flattening the land and building on top, sometimes filling it back in with gravel or turf grass, said Jordan Macknick, an engineer and environmental analyst…
Read More: Indiana solar developers plant flowers that could help save bees