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Solar And Pollinators Incoming
Fresh Energy

The Center for Pollinators in Energy

Bees, monarchs, and other critical pollinators are disappearing, and scientists agree that loss of habitat is a primary concern. Because the United States solar industry first took off in the desert Southwest, a standard practice for the land on solar sites is gravel and/or monocrop lawn grass.

That changed in 2016 when Fresh Energy, Audubon Minnesota, and the Minnesota Corn Growers worked with agricultural and business leaders to establish the nation’s first statewide standard for vegetation on solar sites…

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Smart Siting Solar
Engie Solar

‘A magical solution’: solar developers planting flowers that could help save butterflies and bees

If we are going to slow down climate change fast enough to save the lands and waters we love, we are going to have to transition to renewables in a big way. Research shows that it can't all be on rooftops, parking areas, and brownfields. That will mean creating "compatible" solar: solar designed to work in partnership with farms, ranches, and pollinators. You can start sharing good examples to bring your community (and fellow conservationists) along on this journey.

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.

Solar projects with habitats such as these, called pollinator-friendly solar projects, have been launched 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.

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…

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Farmland Low Sun
Creative Commons

Smart Solar Siting for New England: free webinar series

While focused on New England, there are many transferable concepts in this series that you and your land trust might appreciate.

Join American Farmland Trust, Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation, Vote Solar, and Vermont Law School for a four-part webinar series, as we share outcomes from our joint two-year project seeking to reduce conflicts over the siting of solar facilities…

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Beaufort County Open Land Trust

Beaufort County Solar Facility first in the state to be permanently protected

Land trusts are recognizing that solar and conservation goals can work together, especially if considering the negative impacts of climate change on the lands and waters they are working to conserve. Solar developments have to be well-designed to minimize impact on soils and related conservation goals; solar developers are increasingly interested in finding the most sustainable path of energy and land conservation.

In a first of its kind deal for South Carolina, Beaufort County Open Land Trust announced the closing of a conservation easement on land owned by an affiliate of Adger Solar LLC, on which the Seabrook solar energy generation facility in Beaufort County resides.

The 72-megawatt facility, owned by Dominion Energy, is sited on a rural 628-acre property and is the first designated solar energy facility in South Carolina to be on land protected permanently by a conservation easement. The project is expected to be in service in 2020 and will provide enough energy to power 9,000 homes for the next 25 years. The agreement allows for the land to be used for farming, timber, or other rural uses if energy production ends.

“Our landscape in Beaufort County is changing and how we think about land use is changing too. What was once a tomato farm will now help support the growing clean energy industry,” commented Kristin Williams, executive director, Beaufort County Open Land Trust. “Our goal is to ensure that over the long-term, these sites vulnerable to residential, commercial, and industrial development, are permanently protected…”

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Solar And Ag
Hyperion Systems, LLC

Farmland and Compatible Solar Webinar Series

You and your land trust don't have to host all the programs nor be an expert in climate change to make a difference. Instead, you can share information to help inspire those around you. American Farmland Trust has a number of very interesting webinar discussions for you to share.

Farmland is a critical resource in our country, particularly in areas that are heavily forested or developed. American Farmland Trust recently released the Farms Under Threat report, documenting those challenges.

Yet climate change is the most significant threat to conservation we have ever faced. Rather than remove forests, many are locating solar fields on agricultural lands. Can it be done well? Yes.

Find out how in this webinar series focusing on smart solar siting, balancing solar siting with conservation, growing the solar market, and turning state and local priorities into sound policy. While this is focused on New England, there will be many transferable concepts for wherever you are located.

Webinars are free and running on September 23, September 30, October 7, and October 15. 

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Solar And Sunflowers
Engie Distributed Solar

Michigan opens 3.3M farmland acres to bee-friendly solar projects

Recognizing the increasing compatibility of solar with rural land conservation, Michigan recently amended its farmland preservation rules to allow solar development on protected farmland, provided that the solar project met the state’s pollinator-friendly standards...

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday announced an executive decision that frees up 3.3 million acres of farmland protected under the state’s Farmland and Open Space Program to solar development. Previously, the land was allowed to host wind turbines and oil and gas exploration, but solar was historically restricted because it was considered to have a larger footprint…

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Solar Panels

Want to get involved with solar grazing?

Time is running out to have a meaningful impact on climate change (to save the lands and waters we love), but the solutions are here. You and your land trust can help people understand both the importance of and the need for changing the paradigm. Check out American Solar Grazing Association for webinars, resources, and conversations with farmers on solar, grazing, and farm viability.

he American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA) was founded to promote grazing sheep on solar installations.

ASGA members are developing best practices that support shepherds and solar developers to both effectively manage solar installations and create new agribusiness profits…

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Solar And Pollinators
Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy

The evolution of rural solar: from panel monocrops to multiple land uses

Time is running out to have a meaningful impact on climate change (to save the lands and waters we love), but the solutions are here. You and your land trust can help people understand both the importance of and the need for changing the paradigm. Check out American Solar Grazing Association for webinars, resources, and conversations with farmers on solar, grazing, and farm viability.

In farming, companion planting of certain crops in close proximity can provide an array of benefits: from pest control, to flavor enhancement, to increased productivity.

The same concept can be applied to rural solar projects, which have the opportunity to integrate with other land uses, such as crops or pollinator-friendly plantings, and create win-win outcomes for rural communities…

Recognizing the increasing compatibility of solar with rural land conservation, Michigan recently amended its farmland preservation rules to allow solar development on protected farmland, provided that the solar project met the state’s pollinator-friendly standards…

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Kale Under Solar
Hyperion Systems, LLC

Smart Solar Siting partnership project for New England

Land trusts will need to help promote renewables if we are going to reduce climate change fast enough to make a meaningful impact. Yet we know that rooftop solar, and parking lot/brown-field solar won't be enough. That means solar has to go on farmland or wildlife habitat...and it's not often compatible with wildlife habitat.

American Farmland Trust’s Smart Solar Siting Partnership Project for New England started as a two-year effort to build an influential, ongoing, multi-stakeholder coalition supporting recommendations that advance smart solar siting policies and programs in New England states. This is a joint effort to accelerate the expansion of renewable solar energy facilities while maintaining New England’s most productive, resilient farmland and forest land and strengthening its regional food systems.

Check out their program and resources. Your land trust and community may be able to model a similar approach.

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Land Conservancy
The Conservation Foundation

Four ways land conservation mitigates the impact of climate change

Messaging and marketing (of ideas, relevance, impact, and change) requires repeating the same ideas in different ways, over and over again. You'll want different messengers, stories, and images. You'll also want to identify why the topic is relevant to your readers—and explain what action(s) they can take. Here's an example you might be able to emulate for your own land trust/community.

This land trust is working to conserve land using a number of different strategies. They own farmland, wildlife habitat, and hold conservation easements. They run educational programs and own a farm (offering food to the community). Their reach is wide—and they are adapting and responding to calls for greater impact and the need to slow down climate change.

Check out this blog post as an example of how you could help your community see the importance of land conservation as part of the solution…

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