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An animal farm covered with silicon solar panels is seen in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, China, Sept. 2, 2017. At a recent solar energy conference in Minneapolis, attendees unwound at happy hour tasting free pints of a local honey-based India pale ale called “Solarama Crush.” Minnesota-based 56 Brewing makes the smooth IPA using honey from hives located on solar farms outside the Twin Cities. Honey producers Travis and Chiara Bolton keep bees at three solar farms where developers seeded native plants underneath and around panels. “The advantage to these sites is that they are intentionally planted for pollinators,” says Travis Bolton. “At these sites, they’re really trying to get them back to a native prairie, and that’s a benefit to us.” Native plants have replaced turfgrass and gravel as the go-to bedding for solar gardens in Minnesota, a result of a 2016 state standard that outlines how developers can create pollinator-friendly environments . More than half of the 4,000 acres of solar farms built in 2016 and 2017 feature native plants that not only benefit pollinators but also beautify the site. Although Minnesota may be in the vanguard of encouraging solar farm developers to grow native plants, it […]

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