Utility Says Its Solar Farms Are for the Birds ... and the BeesDavid Wagman | November 15, 2017
Florida Power & Light Co. plans to use solar energy farms across the state as bird- and pollinator-friendly sites.
Through the "Solar Sanctuary" partnership, FPL and Audubon Florida are working with the Florida Wildflower Foundation, Florida Native Plant Society, Wildlife Habitat Council, local Audubon chapters and others to design and implement site-specific environmental enhancements.
The utility says it is on track to install more than 2.5 million solar panels at eight new solar power plants across Florida that will be operational by early 2018. Each new facility is being designed to allow a portion of the land to be planted with native grasses, trees, shrubs and vines. Plants are being chosen to provide food for birds and pollinators. Wetlands also are being preserved to provide additional habitat for birds.
The FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center and the FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center are the first sites with approved plans to become Solar Sanctuaries.
The following sites are also currently under construction and will be included in the program:
• FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center
• FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center
• FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center
• FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center
Each FPL solar power plant encompasses several hundred acres of land in order to host roughly 330,000 solar panels. The utility says that concrete is not used to secure the panel systems to the ground, making them well suited for sharing with birds and pollinators.
Some enhancements that will be implemented include:
• Creating pollinator-friendly habitat areas to provide ample food sources for insects, songbirds and hummingbirds.
• Planting vine species to provide a food source for native and migratory hummingbird species.
• Planting native vegetation as a buffer near property edges, which will provide food sources and nesting habitat for a variety of songbirds such as bluebirds and wintering sparrows.
• Preserving wetlands and surface waters to provide habitat for a variety of wetland-dependent wildlife species such as frogs, snakes, turtles and wading birds.
• Protecting existing gopher tortoise habitat, including burrows.
• Planting native groundcover and shrubs to provide additional food and shelter for birds and wildlife.
This partnership builds on FPL's pilot pollinator program, which was initiated at three solar power plants that were completed in 2016. Approximately 15 acres of pollinator habitat were designated at the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, FPL Babcock Solar Energy Center, and FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center. Pollinator-friendly wildflowers and other native plants were planted to provide habitat for butterflies, bees and birds.
From 2016 to 2023, FPL plans to add a total of more than 10 million solar panels across Florida, including approximately 1 million installed at three new plants in 2016 and more than 2.5 million at eight plants currently under construction.
The company operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity throughout the state.