Fox sedge grasses billow in the prairie breeze, monarchs sway on milkweed, while sheep graze on wild Canadian rye, and warm rays of the sun kiss the solar panels above.
If that last part seems out of place, it’s only because this ingenious way to repair prairie biodiversity is only just being adopted in Minnesota, where what might be assumed to be a picturesque grassland is actually a solar farm.
Instead of unadorned grass, bare soil or gravel, the ground below Enel Green Power’s solar farm in Chisago County is covered in wild flowers, grasses and herbs that supply native pollinators, providing a rich habitat for insects. like butterflies, bees and even small mammals.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Soil and Water Resources, and the Public Utilities Commission encourage this type of planting under solar farms. Enel’s sixteen solar farms are planted with this grassland mix and managed by Minnesota natural landscapes (MNL).
Tribune of the stars spoke with a woman tasked with ensuring that the standard of pollinator-friendly greenery between the solar panels was genuine, and not simply a ploy by the power company to raise capital.
“We’ve been seeing great things in terms of the floral community and the pollinators that use the habitat there,” said Laura Lukens, an inspector for the St. Paul-based Monarch Joint Venture. Grandstand. “I saw monarchs breeding everywhere I visited.”
Herbs and flowers not only help pollinators and monarchs, but their dark colors and shade keep the soil temperature lower than bare gray stones or sand, which in turn helps maintain cooler solar panels, increasing your electricity generation.
Perhaps the most interesting detail is MNL’s deployment of sheep to graze the pasture mix.
Sheep grazing helps remove dead weeds and control weeds, reducing the risk of fire. Trampling the flowers and soil below spreads seeds that adhere to their wool and help keep the soil healthy, while their manure fertilizes it after they die.
“This is the next phase of land management that we are trying to normalize, so there is this strange concept,” MNL’s Jake Janski told the Grandstand. “We are trying to standardize the use of animals to do what animals do in nature. I’m sick of putting band-aids on. We are trying to fix the meadow. “
This Minnesota blend of modern and natural is a great example of how authentic and biodiverse landscapes can fit into many of the nooks and crannies of our society.
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