Connexus Energy of Minnesota and the National Renewable Energy Lab are working together in an experimental program that may boost the output of solar power plants. Borrowing an idea that is popular in the UK, Connexus is planting prairie grasses and flowers under and around the solar panels at one of its solar and storage facilities. Credit: Connexus Energy Pollinator-friendly plantings at large solar energy sites have become common in Minnesota in recent years, according to Minnesota Public Radio . Not only do they provide a habitat where bees and butterflies can thrive, they also promote soil health and may increase the solar panels’ electricity output on warm days. The National Renewable Energy Lab is using the Ramsey Renewable Station and a couple dozen other sites around the country to test pollinator plantings. “Their hypothesis is that thicker vegetation under and around solar panels creates a cooler microclimate, which actually generates more electricity from the panels,” said Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators in Energy at the Minnesota advocacy group Fresh Energy. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, says it will now require solar developers to include plans for similar plantings. Davis says the Ramsey Renewable Station […]

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