Butterflies, Beetles and Bees Gain Important Ally in the Empire State

Cypress Creek Renewables, a leading national solar developer, today announced 100 percent of its solar farms in New York State will include abundant pollinator habitats to benefit bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects vital to the region’s food supply. The company’s decision comes after a year-long pilot program, which involved coordination with lead entomologists across the United States.

Cypress Creek estimates that its Solar + Pollinators Initiative, spanning dozens of community solar farms throughout the state—from Hudson Valley and the Catskills to the Capital Region and beyond—will add approximately 1,000 acres of pollinator-friendly habitat, the equivalent of planting and actively maintaining more than 605,000 6’ by 12’ backyard gardens.

Scott McArt, Assistant Professor, Entomology at Cornell University, said “Over the decades, Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has learned that pollinator health is fundamental to the success of our native flora and agricultural food systems. Providing habitat for pollinators on solar sites is an innovative idea, combining biodiversity stewardship and renewable energy goals. My research program is looking forward to objectively quantifying the benefits of these solar plantings for NYS pollinators and furthering our research and education for honey bees and native pollinator management as part of our College’s Land Grant mission.”

Noah Hyte, New York Market Director, Cypress Creek Renewables, said, “Cypress Creek is committed to being a good neighbor while providing clean, low-cost power to communities throughout New York. Incorporating pollinator-friendly habitats with flowers, clover, and other native plants at our solar farms provides another opportunity to benefit the environment, local agriculture, and the towns we serve.”

Cypress Creek Solar + Pollinator Farms

To inform optimal design and uniformity among is Solar + Pollinator sites, Cypress Creek relies on a scorecard developed by the Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont. All Cypress Creek Solar + Pollinator Farms will score 90 points or better on the pollinator-friendly solar scorecard.

Cypress Creek has piloted Solar + Pollinator Farms at sites in Minnesota and Maryland. Benefits of Solar + Pollinator farms include:

  • Continual source of nourishment for native bees and local wildlife, as well as managed honey bees;

  • Improved crop yields of nearby agricultural farms, due to increased abundance of beneficial insects; and

  • Reduction in soil erosion and storm water runoff.

Fasts Facts about Pollinators and Agriculture in New York State

  • To produce a market-ready fruit, each New York State apple blossom is visited two to four times by a pollinator, such as wild bees and honeybees

  • New York State produces over three billion apples every year

  • New York State has a nation-leading dairy industry—one of the main food stocks for dairy cattle is alfalfa, a pollinator dependent crop

  • Wild bees contribute substantially to insect-dependent crop production, particularly when wild bee communities are diverse and abundant (study published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment)

  • Beneficial insects feed on crop pests—for example, a single beetle consumes up to 5,000 soybean aphids in its short lifespan

What People are Saying

Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said “Cypress Creek Renewables is demonstrating the diverse benefits of solar by partnering with communities to boost local agriculture and protect our environment and vital species, including honeybees. Meaningful action on climate change requires grassroots leadership from towns and cities across the state—community solar with pollinator habitats promotes healthier farms and generates economic development.”

Ellen Conrad, Co-President, Bedford 2020 Coalition, said, “Bedford 2020 is delighted with the news that Cypress Creek has committed to planting pollinator habitats at all its New York State solar projects. Pairing native plants and ground mounted solar arrays represents an unparalleled opportunity to advance solar energy, address the threat of pollinator extinction, and support local agriculture and farmers. Over the past year, Bedford 2020 has worked with an enthusiastic team of stakeholders, including industry, advocates, and scientists, to create a region-wide Pollinator Friendly Demonstration Pilot Project to create standard best practices for pollinator friendly solar farms to ensure statewide success. We are looking forward to working with Cypress Creek on their pollinator friendly solar arrays and their participation in our Pilot Project.”

Rob Davis, Director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy, said “Many of New York State’s premier crops, such as apples, alfalfa, soybeans, pumpkins, and berries, rely heavily on pollination yet in 2016 New York State lost fifty percent of its managed pollinator colonies and populations of native pollinators and other beneficial insects continued to decline. Solar arrays—like the Underhill project by Cypress Creek Renewables—provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enable significant private-sector investment in acres and acres of clean and healthy pollen and nectar for the insects that are urgently needed in agriculture.”

Scott Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society, said “Pollinator meadows around solar farms seems like a no-brainer for bees. In addition to providing the season-long bloom and nest sites that bees need, because these 1,000 acres are scattered into dozens of smaller plots, they also bring landscape-scale benefits.”

Taylor Rickets, Director, Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont, said “Agricultural areas are increasingly becoming “food deserts” for bees and other beneficial insects. We urgently need to find ways to supply more food and nesting opportunities they need, so they can supply the pollination and other benefits we need. I am encouraged to see solar industry leaders seizing the opportunity to create pollinator habitats within their installations. It’s a clear two-fer, and a great example of private-sector investment in natural capital.