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Pollinator-Friendly Solar PV for Massachusetts

Large solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays can be planted with native vegetation to provide habitat for pollinators and other 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.  In consultation with state and federal agencies, pollinator experts, and stakeholders in the agriculture, wildlife biology, and solar energy communities, CEE has developed a pollinator-friendly certification program for solar PV facilities in Massachusetts.

UMass Pollinator-Friendly Solar PV Certification Program

The following documents lay out the requirements for developing, certifying, and maintaining a pollinator-friendly solar PV array, and provide resources to aid in that process. 

Note that it is HIGHLY recommended that you submit an Application to CEE for review prior to carrying out any work at a proposed pollinator-friendly solar facility.  This is necessary to ensure that the development plan and activities are in line with certification criteria, and that the site will ultimately be able to obtain certification.

Certification Criteria:  Silver     Gold/Platinum

Best Management Practices:  PDF

Recommended Plant Species List:  Spreadsheet

Application Form:  PDF      Fillable PDF     Table Templates

Certification Procedure and Fees:  PDF     On-line Payment Portal

Annual Maintenance Log:  Spreadsheet

For an overview of the UMass program, see this article published in the Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists newsletter (December 2020).  For a brief summary of applications reviewed from 2020-2021, CLICK HERE.

Why pollinator-friendly solar?

Pollinator-Friendly Solar Fact Sheet

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 schedSpreadsheetules, 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 pollinator-friendly solar PV in Massachusetts?

  • Working with experts and stakeholders to define Pollinator-Friendly Certification Criteria for Massachusetts solar arrays.
  • 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 are other states doing?

  • At least eight states have created voluntary designation programs for solar PV facilities to establish habitats friendly to pollinators and native grassland birds. 
  • A number have developed best management practices, as well as establishment, maintenance, and monitoring guidance.
  • Recent reviews of state-by-state efforts are available from the Clean Energy States Alliance and the Electric Power Research Institute.
  • See examples of programs 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).