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April 2, 2019

Solar farms, honey and beer? Yale event spotlights connection

PHOTO | Courtesy Fresh Energy

Parcels of land hosting solar arrays can be used for much more than catching the sun’s rays for energy.

On Monday, Yale University’s Graduate School of Forestry and Environmental Studies hosted an event, “Agrivoltaics: Harvesting Multiple Benefits from Solar Sites.” It highlighted ways to make solar development pollinator-friendly, such as by planting native grasses and wildflowers to provide habitat for bees and insects.

The event featured many key players in the solar industry, including Clif Bar, Alchemist Brewing, 56 Brewing, Fresh Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and ENGIE.

Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy in Minnesota, is working to fast-track the country’s use of clean and renewable energy.

Davis, an event panelist, stressed the importance of making productive use of the land under and around solar panels.

One potential use is low-growing perennial flowering meadows, which create beautiful scenery and attract bees and butterflies, according to Davis. Honey from the bees can then be used to make craft beer. Breweries in Minnesota and Vermont are already using solar-farm honey.

“These sites are really gorgeous,” Davis said. “The hope is to have better outcomes for solar designs here in the Northeast.”

Another panelist at the event, Jordan Macknick, is the lead energy-water-land analyst for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. He is also principal investigator for the InSPIRE project, a six-year effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project is evaluating agricultural and pollinator-friendly opportunities for solar development.

“We can say which types of flowers grow best and how the bees and butterflies react,” Macknick said. “Many native species and pollinators benefit from the partial shade provided by solar arrays, because of improved water retention in the soil.”

At the event, representatives from Clif Bar discussed how a flowering solar array is powering its newest bakery. Alchemist Brewing of Vermont previewed its new beer brewed with honey harvested from flowering solar farms. Guests were invited to sample the 2019 batch of Solarama Crush, a beer from 56 Brewing of Minneapolis, said to be the first beer brewed with solar-farm honey.

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at

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