Wildflowers requirement for solar park praised

By The Associated Press

WINCHESTER, Ind. (AP) — A Purdue University entomologist and conservancy groups are praising an eastern Indiana county’s requirement that the state’s largest solar farm to be planted with meadow grasses and wildflowers to benefit butterflies and other pollinators.

An ordinance adopted by Randolph County officials calls for ground cover at the 1,400-acre Riverstart Solar Park to be planted in meadow grasses and wildflowers or clover, The (Muncie) Star Press reported.

The solar park, first announced in 2018, would include 670,000 photovoltaic solar panels in southwestern Randolph County and produce enough electricity to power about 37,000 households. Developer EDP Renewables was waiting for the ordinance to be enacted before starting construction on the estimated $242 million project.

Establishing a low-growing, flowering meadow on the solar farm “is a decision you will be delighted with for decades to come,” John Seymour, a native seed supplier, wrote to county commissioners. “You will see monarchs in your community as well as the pollinators needed for agriculture.”

Brock Harpur, an assistant professor of entomology at Purdue, cited a recent study that found more than 50,000 acres of Indiana conservation lands — healthy habitat for wildlife — were converted to row crop fields over an eight-year period.

“During this same time, the health of Indiana pollinators has plummeted,” Harpur said. “Native pollinator species numbers are lower than the number needed to pollinate crops — and managed species, such as honey bees, experience greater than average losses each year — as many as 63% of colonies are lost annually in Indiana. “

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