Written by Michael Noble, executive director of MEP member group Fresh Energy
We worked for years to ensure Minnesota leads the way in the transition to a clean energy economy. Homegrown renewable energy has led to billions of dollars of private investment, millions of production taxes paid to local communities, and thousands of jobs created across Minnesota.
For years, Minnesota’s leadership in energy has revolved around our significant wind power across south western Minnesota. Now, as prices continue to drop dramatically, we’re in the beginning stages of an exciting solar expansion as well. Thousands of acres of ground mounted solar are set to be installed over the next several years, and that expansion presents a unique opportunity to not only produce homegrown energy, but also to support our water and food supply.
These solar arrays could easily support new habitat for monarch butterflies and honey bees — simply by planting pollinator friendly native grasses rather than layer gravel or dirt. Most developers are used to building solar farms in California and Arizona (desert ground cover). In most cases, shipping in gravel is more expensive than dense beds deep-rooted pollinator plants.
Native grasses planted under solar arrays won’t only benefit the pollinators we rely on for our food supply, they also help keep our water clean by serving as a natural filter for the water in our ecosystem. Sure, we can all also plant some habitat in our backyards to help the cause, but just 2,500 acres of habitat at solar farms is equivalent to 750,000 12×12’ backyard pollinator gardens. That’s like a pollinator garden in more than half of every single family home in the entire state — and maintaining it for 25 years. This is a simple, cost effective solution that can make a big difference.
With your support, we can create clean, homegrown energy while supporting our pollinators and protecting our water. Go to www.pollinatorpledge.com today to join the campaign by signing our petition to urge solar developers to turn this win-win idea into a reality.