WildSNaP: Biodiversity in Solar through Native Planting
March 2023 - March 2026
Renewable energy production is exponentially increasing worldwide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Solar energy has rapidly expanded across the US landscape to meet the population’s growing energy needs, with a projected increase of solar energy contribution from 3% of total electricity generation in 2020 to 20% in 2050. Solar production in the US is estimated to have increased by 33.2% just in the last year. Production of small-scale residential and commercial solar arrays has increased, but the largest contribution of solar energy growth now comes from utility-scale solar arrays. These arrays are frequently built in agricultural fields or croplands, because the flat open landscape maximizes efficiency of solar power generation and minimizes site preparation activities. There has been a recent movement to plant low-growing native plant communities under solar arrays to reduce the costs associated with turf grass mowing. We are evaluating how the bird, amphibian, pollinator, bat, and mammal communities use solar arrays with an understory of native grasses and forbs compared to sites with turf grass as well as reference sites.