When people think of , they often think of advancements such as panels and even solar as it relates to vehicles. But would you make a connection between bees and solar power? Last year, a law was passed in Minnesota regarding the best practices for solar power sites and for providing pollinator-friendly habitats. Solar honey is something that came out of this concept. The Pollinator Friendly Solar Act is a groundbreaking legislation that establishes standards and expectations for managing native habitats for pollinators. Developers in solar are able to utilize these expectations and guidelines to determine the best solutions for laying out plants, maintaining sites, and determining which seed mixes are best to use, for instance. Everything is done to provide a comfortable, efficient home for some of our most popular pollinators. Solar providers throughout Minnesota are very drawn to this concept as per Smithsonian.com

Bee farm at solar farmImage from Bolton Bees. (Fresh Energy)
Image from Bolton Bees. (Fresh Energy)

Pollinators and Habitat Loss

Pollinators, unfortunately, are facing habitat loss and the rate at which it’s happening is worrisome – with logging, development and mono-cropping, habitat loss is happening very fast. From 2015 to 2016, a 44 percent decline in colonies in the United States was reported by the USDA. The problem with this is that bees are significant when it comes to the production of food. As a matter of fact, they pollinate roughly 75 percent of nuts, fruits and vegetables grown in America. The transformation of solar sites into pollinator-friendly habitats is unique, groundbreaking and important. The idea to partner with solar businesses in order to host industrial bee operations was brought to light by Chiara and Travis Bolton, of Bolton Bees (A St. Paul, MN based company). They have established hives at solar facilities in Scandia and Farmington which are owned by NRG Energy, as well as at Connexus Energy, which is a customer-owned power company in MN. Thousands of pounds of solar honey harvest has been extracted from the different sites, as per Modern Farmer. The team at Bolton Bees is also interested in opening apiaries at solar sites in other states, such as Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Chiara and Travis Bolton even trademarked the term “Solar Honey” and licensed it to food producers, energy companies and beekeepers who are willing to abide by their production standards. They want their model to be copied throughout the country. The mission of the Solar Honey Company is to promote the efficient utilization of land around and under solar panels. The land around ground-mounted solar panels has so much potential, something that this creative couple thoroughly understands. Making it pollinator-friendly is such an innovative, huge step. It is important that we establish healthy habitats for bees as well as other pollinators – realistically, it is crucial that we help bees by providing a pollinator-friendly habitat. Without bees, we wouldn’t have mangoes, apples, guava, pears, plums, peaches, rose hips, avocados, apricots, cashews, onions, strawberries, okra…the list goes on. Some of the foods that we count on for our health would no longer exist.

Bolton Bees has partnered with solar developers and other businesses that buy solar energy. The company is paid for creating custom jars for solar businesses and for apiary placement. Their model can and should be replicated. Hopefully, there will be many more acres of pollinator-friendly habitats which pop up across the country.

Honey bees and solar power are a good combination – one which can make a positive difference in the future as it relates to honey bees and the use that we have for them as a society. Follow solar news to see the latest developments as it relates to solar power and honey bees!

Sources:

 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/solar-power-and-honey-bees-180964743/

https://www.ecowatch.com/solar-honey-bees-2481799277.html

https://modernfarmer.com/2017/09/solar-honey-in-minnesota/

https://www.solar-honey.com/about-us/

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