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Wildlife-Friendly Solar PV for Massachusetts

Large solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays can be planted with native vegetation to provide habitat to pollinators and wildlife species.  A number of states have established voluntary "pollinator-friendly" certification programs to help solar developers implement, maintain, and promote native meadow habitats under and around solar panels.  CEE is working with state and federal agencies, pollinator experts, and stakeholders in the agriculture, wildlife biology, and solar energy communities to develop a wildlife-friendly designation program for solar PV facilities in Massachusetts.

Click here for a 1-page overview of the project.

Why wildlife-friendly solar?

It’s Good for Native Wildlife and Plants: Native flowering herbs and shrubs provide habitat and food to pollinators and other species. Grassland habitats support over 70 animals and plants designated as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Massachusetts.   

It’s Cost-Effective:  Establishing native plants under solar PV arrays may require higher upfront costs, but these practices can result in lower maintenance costs over time, due to reduced mowing schedules, and reduced needs for watering and herbicide application.

It’s Prettier:  Wildflower meadows and vegetation screens of native shrub species are aesthetically more appealing than grass or gravel.  They may make solar PV facilities more acceptable to neighbors and visitors.

What is UMass Clean Energy Extension doing to develop wildlife-friendly solar PV in Massachusetts?

  • Working with state wildlife and native plant organizations to determine best management practices for establishing and maintaining native plant and animal communities under solar arrays.
  • Working with agricultural organizations and beekeepers to help support pollinators important to farming.
  • Working with solar PV developers to ensure designation standards are economically feasible and compatible with solar PV array operation and maintenance.

What have other states done?

  • Created voluntary designation programs for solar PV facilities to establish habitats friendly to pollinators and native grassland birds
  • Developed best management practices, as well as establishment, maintenance, and monitoring guidance.
  • Check out what's happening in other states:  Vermont  Maryland  Minnesota

Have questions about the project, or interested in becoming involved?  Contact Zara Dowling (zdowling@umass.edu; 413-545-8516).