Planting wildflowers around solar panels could make them a home for bees

By: Lottie Limb

Solar farms could become havens for bees and other pollinators if simple changes were made, new research suggests.

Fields of glinting panels may not look like the most inviting place for wildlife to flourish. But if solar park land is managed as meadows – as opposed to turf grass – it can support four times as many bumblebees.

Researchers at Lancaster University, UK, investigated different scenarios to see if ground-nesting bumble bee populations could be better supported.

PhD researcher Hollie Blaydes says, “Our findings provide the first quantitative evidence that solar parks could be used as a conservation tool to support and boost pollinator populations. If they are managed in a way that provides resources [such as wildflowers], solar parks could become valuable bumble bee habitat.”

Farmers would also reap the benefits of these parks upping their floral and nesting offerings.

Simulating different models of bumblebee foraging, the researchers found that large, elongated and resource-rich solar parks could boost bumble bee density up to 1km outside of the parks themselves.

This would bring pollinator services to crops in surrounding agricultural land – which locals could further take advantage of by planting pollinator-dependent plants like basil and courgettes.