Feature Image for Pollinators

Pollinator Friendly Native Habitat

ENGIE Distributed Renewables uses vegetation plantings as a standard element in ground mount designs for distributed solar arrays, including seed mixes of grasses and flowering forbs that would naturally grow in the area. Each site is seeded with a diverse mix of nearly 25 different plant species, including plants native to the region.

When established, these restored habitats:

  • Provide havens for pollinators, birds and wildlife
  • Improve the natural ecosystem by increasing biodiversity
  • Protect downstream terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems from nitrate contamination
  • Potentially increase energy production due to the creation of a micro-climate within the array.

Butterfly pollinating a native flower by a solar array

Pollinators are nature’s pollen movers: the insects, birds and small animals that naturally fertilize plants by moving pollen from one part of a flower to another. Since many plants rely on pollinators to reproduce and make fruit, it’s important that pollinators have safe environments to live and thrive.

Honey bees and other bee species, butterflies, wasps, beetles, flies, some birds and even bats are pollinators.

A monarch butterfly, a bee and butterfly an ENGIE maintained solar site

How pollination works

Hidden inside its petals, every flower has nectar, a stigma and an anther, which is covered in pollen. For the plant to create fruit and produce seeds, the pollen must be moved from the anther to the stigma. That’s where pollinators come in — they do this important work as they search for nectar and nesting materials.

How pollination works

Humans, birds and animals need pollinators

In one year, pollinators make hundreds of trillions of visits to flowers. And it’s important that they do. Just one strawberry requires 20 visits from a pollinator. Imagine how many visits it takes to create a strawberry pie!

To create one piece of fruit, pollinators need to visit a plant’s flower multiple times:

Infographic with blueberry, apple, raspberry, pumpkin, strawberry and bee icons showing the number of pollinator visits required to produce one piece of each fruit

They help make food, clothes and more

Pollinators helps humans maintain healthy diets, and create natural materials for food, clothing and shelter. In fact, pollinators help grow 75% of the earth’s crops and 50% of its oils, fibers and raw materials.

Infographic showing how pollinators are necessary for producing 75% of food crops and 50% of the raw materials we need to live

Pollinators are in danger

Climate change has not been kind to pollinators, which puts our entire ecosystem in danger. For example, since 1990, changing conditions have wiped out nearly 1 billion Monarch butterflies, and has put more than 300 species of North American birds at risk.

Chart showing how Monarch butterfly populations are decreasing at a steady pace

Pollinators are part of nature’s food chain

Pollinators are a food source for other species, acting as an important connector in a thriving ecosystem web. They are a hearty meal for a number of animals, including birds and mice. Nearly two-thirds of all invertebrates can be connected back to the butterfly on the food chain. The loss of this seemingly insignificant insect could, potentially, collapse entire ecosystems that rely so heavily on them.

Pollinator food chain infographic the food source hierarchy with butterflies at the bottom

Solar panel surrounded by pollinator friendly plants and flowers

Yellow bird in native plantings habitat

The grasses and flowering forb plantings around the solar panels at all our ground mount installations are native plants — those which naturally grow in the region — and provide havens for animals, insects and birds (including pollinators).

Restored native habitats create natural microsystems where plants, birds, insects and animals thrive.

Perfect microsystems

These natural habitats protect the pollinator food chain. Native flowers provide nectar for insects. Birds eat the seeds and insects. The plants’ stalks and brush provide nesting and safety for all.

Top soil protection

The deep roots of native plants help hold soil in place and naturally protect it from storms and erosion. Fields that grow crops or grass with shallow roots can lose more than five tons of top soil per acre every year. In fact, one 40-acre pollinator-friendly habitat could prevent the erosion of more than 6,000 tons of top soil over 30-years. And, farms closer to natural habitat produce more crop yield.

The deep and complex root system of these diverse plant species:

  • Holds soil in place
  • Reduces soil erosion and degradation
  • Increases stormwater infiltration (avg. 2X), reducing flood potential
  • Filters stormwater runoff as it flows through the roots
  • Captures and utilizes nitrates
  • Revolves 80–100% of suspended soils (on average)

Infographic illustrating the root depth of turfgrass vs. native plants

Naturally easy

Watering, mowing or fertilizer is not needed for natural habitats; they take care of themselves.

Rich nutrients

Natural habitats also improve the quality of storm water, which delivers rich nutrients back into the soil.

Naturally powerful

A natural habitat creates its own microclimate which potentially increases energy production of solar arrays.