Montpelier – Today, Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) members pledged to help pollinators through bee and bird-friendly plantings at solar projects across the state. In partnership with leading scientists and environmental organizations, solar leaders committed to help landowners re-create habitat to aid imperiled keystone species and valuable crop pollinators.
The pollinator friendly solar pledge reflects one of many ways that renewable energy helps heal our environment and support farmers,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont.
Working together, solar leaders and wildlife advocates are abuzz with the benefits that pollinator friendly solar projects bring. Nine businesses have already stepped up, committing to 24.8 MW of pollinator-friendly solar over the next year.”
In recent years, increased use of pesticides and habitat loss have led to the near collapse of pollinator populations worldwide. Pollinators are a crucial part of any ecosystem, and their loss has spurred action across many sectors, including Vermont’s robust renewable energy sector.
There is an opportunity to use the space under solar fields, wind towers, and power lines to restore critical habitat for our declining pollinators. We began in 2015 with a field south of Middlebury, Vermont built by Encore Renewable Energy for Middle Road Venture,” said Mike Kiernan of Bee the Change, a non-profit helping energy projects switch management methods.
“Our most recent work was a 4-acre installation for the Green Lantern Group in New Haven and we’ve just begun work on a solar field with a demonstration garden at Rock Point School in Burlington, which will allow us to bring in school groups, garden clubs, and interested citizens and tell the story of the importance of pollinators. We are now in five solar fields across the state with several more in the works.”
Vermont solar businesses and landowners are creating win-win-win strategies for clean energy, agriculture, and pollinators. By using the land under and around solar arrays to plant native pollinator-friendly plants, Vermont solar energy can play a significant role in re-establishing critical pollinator habitats to address the growing threat to bees and birds, which are valuable crop pollinators.
“Bee The Change installed over 90 species of plants and flowers at our 4-acre solar project this spring, and to see the birds and bees buzzing all over the array two weeks ago was very exciting, said Sam Carlson, Director of Project Development at the Green Lantern Group. “The site is beautiful with so many flowers blooming, and the honey is going to taste great, too! This is a great example of a solar project delivering not only clean Vermont-made electricity but also benefits for pollinators, who need our help.”
Audubon Vermont, which has been engaging Vermonters to protect birds and wildlife habitat for over 50 years, is another partner and resource to Vermonters hoping to protect local pollinators. “Audubon’s research has shown that half of Vermont’s birds are threatened by climate change. We need to both enhance habitat and reduce the amount of carbon we are adding to the atmosphere around us,” said Jim Shallow, Audubon Vermont State Director. “These sites not only create the clean energy we need but also become part of a collective effort to develop and sustain habitat for birds and other pollinators.”
In Vermont, Businesses and organizations have already committed to pollinator-friendly practices, such as; Ben & Jerry’s, Catamount Solar, Encore Renewables, Green Lantern Group, Grassroots Solar, Green Mountain Power, GroSolar, Shelburne Farms, and VSECU. REV Member Encore Renewable Energy, which hosts two 500 kW pollinator-friendly projects in the state, says there is a business case for the practice.
“We view the colocation of pollinator-friendly plantings within ground-mounted commercial-scale solar arrays as a perfect example of a positive triple bottom line outcome. The social and environmental benefits of these projects are well documented, and solar project owners are able to lower site management costs over time,” said Chad Farrell of Encore Renewable Energy. “In addition, we feel that the favorable impact on project aesthetics offered by pollinators should allow for more solar projects to be built, something that will have multiple benefits as we look to deliver additional sources of distributed electrical generation to counter the negative effects of climate change.”
New tools and resources are available to help navigate implementation of these sustainable site management strategies, thanks to the guidance of experts at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute and Agricultural Extension, and Vermont’s Agencies of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and engagement by local and national non-profits.
Following the REV conference in 2016, Energy Action Network brought together a diverse group of science, agricultural, and business leaders to develop a certifiable standard – or “Scorecard” – to provide transparent guidance for vegetative management plans using pollinator-friendly plants.
The impactful collaboration provided important guidance to enable Vermont’s solar energy leaders to set the standard for generating both clean energy and vital pollinator habitats that are critical to the future of our birds, our bees, and our farms.
“Green Mountain Power is thrilled to help support the bee population, and we will commit to have our next solar and micro-grid projects, in partnership with solar developers, all be pollinator friendly. As a certified B Corp, GMP is committed to the community and the environment, and looking at ways to have projects provide multiple benefits to our customers as we generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power,” said Robert Dostis, Green Mountain Power’s Vice President of Stakeholder Relations and New Product.
“Catamount Solar is a mission-driven company with an extensive focus on the community and the environment,” said Andrew Wible, of Catamount Solar. “We have already implemented the pollinator-friendly ground cover recommendations designed by the researchers at the University of Vermont Extension. We take the pledge to do more in the future.”
Landowners hosting solar projects, community groups, and businesses planning new solar projects are encouraged to take the pollinator pledge. For more information, visit www.revermont.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Renewable Energy Vermont;
Renewable Energy Vermont represents businesses, non-profits, utilities, and individuals committed to reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels by increasing clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency in Vermont. Vermont’s clean energy economy directly enables at least 19,080 jobs at 3,751 businesses, representing approximately 6% of Vermont’s workforce. Together, we will achieve 90% total renewable energy (electric, thermal, transportation) before 2050. Learn more at www.revermont.org
About Audubon Vermont;
Audubon Vermont is a state program of the National Audubon Society whose mission is to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Our 255-acre Green Mountain Audubon Center located in Huntington, Vermont has been a community hub of outdoor education and conservation for 50 years. Audubon Vermont and our supporters are building a better future for our state through conservation, advocacy, community involvement, and by tapping into an active network that includes over 3,000 members, seven Vermont chapters, and many respected partners in communities throughout Vermont and along the Atlantic Flyway. Our new Plants for Birds program provides Vermonters with resources to make their yards and communities friendly to birds and pollinators. See more at: www.vt.audubon.org
About Energy Action Network;
EAN is a diverse network of leading non-profits, businesses, public agencies, utilities, educational institutions and other high-level stakeholders seeking to advance Vermont’s transition to a sustainable energy future and meet 90% of our 2050 energy needs through efficiency and renewables. Its mission is to end Vermont’s reliance on fossil fuels and to create clean, affordable and secure electric, heating and transportation systems for the 21st century. EAN is founded on the belief that changing large complex systems requires a network approach to harness the power of individual efforts into a leveraged whole. Learn more at www.eanvt.org.
About Bee the Change;
Bee the Change is a Bristol and Stroud-based not-for-profit and community interest company, tackling the pollination crisis by connecting communities to nature through bee conservation. We do this by re-shaping what we think of as ‘bee-keeping’ – turning it around to a more bee-centric form, and bringing people together to learn about what can be done to improve the environment and our own health. We aim to bring a political, social and environmental consciousness into honeybee stewardship and wildlife conservation. Learn more at www.beethechangeproject.org
About Catamount Solar;
Catamount Solar is a mission-driven group, dedicated to making the world a better place by accelerating the development of clean energy systems and by demonstrating a cooperative business model emphasizing workplace democracy and economic fairness. When you decide to work with Catamount Solar to bring a new solar power installation to your home or business, you will be confident that the job is done in a professional, efficient and safe manner.
About Encore Renewable Energy;
Founded in 2007 as Encore Redevelopment and renamed Encore Renewable Energy in 2015, we specialize in the development, financing, permitting, construction management and O&M of renewable energy projects. Encore has significant experience in the development of commercial and industrial (C&I) distributed generation solar projects, deploying creative and groundbreaking approaches to bring ideas from concept to commissioning. With projects in our home state of Vermont and along the Eastern seaboard, Encore is a leading clean energy company in the Northeast.
About Green Lantern Group;
The Green Lantern Group (GLG) provides comprehensive solar project development, construction and financing services. Over the past six years GLG has developed and installed over 50 solar projects in Vermont ranging in size from 50 KW to 2.2 MW, representing over $65 million in investments. GLG brings a focused, professional approach to our engagements, and we leverage relationships with institutional investors, family offices, and lenders. From initial concept through to final commissioning, we make solar projects happen.
About Green Mountain Power;
Green Mountain Power (GMP) serves approximately 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont is partnering with Vermonters to improve lives and transform communities. GMP is focused on a new way of doing business to meet the needs of customers with integrated energy services that help people use less energy and save money, while continuing to generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power in Vermont. GMP is the first utility in the world to get a B Corp certification, meeting rigorous social, environmental, accountability and transparency standards and committing to use business as a force for good. In 2014, Vote Solar named GMP a Solar Champion. More information at: www.greenmountainpower.com. Connect with GMP on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GreenMtnPower.