Nov 18, 2020

Scientists Use Flowers to Protect Water Quality on Solar Farms

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado are researching how plants at solar farms can help improve water quality.

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Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado are researching how planting wildflowers, clovers and other vegetation at solar farms can help improve water quality.

Megan Day, the lab's senior energy planner said that instead of laying gravel, adding plants with deep roots will help soak up storm water, reported Public News Service.

"So it's a much better and more effective way to control storm water and clean the water, by preventing it from running off the site and causing erosion and sedimentation into nearby waterways, streams, wetlands," said Day.

According to Day, it is important for developers to know whether farms should be treated like parking lots, like meadows, or something else. If solar facilities can be designed to soak up sun and storm water, developers can avoid costly mitigation strategies such as retention ponds. Flowering plants can also provide habitat for pollinators needed for crops.

"It's predictable, good revenue," Day added. "So it's a great opportunity for farmers to stabilize their revenues, get through the winter. Solar generates in the winter too."

According to Day, communities across the U.S. are likely to see some kind of solar development in the near future, reported Public News Service. Facilities generate electricity without pollution and also generate jobs, especially during construction. 

"They're going to want it to be done right,” Day said regarding these communities. “They want to have solar facilities that fit into their community that don't have impacts that are negative, and they want benefits. We're trying to just increase those benefits."

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