June 20-26, 2022 is National Pollinator Week, an annual event celebrated internationally in support of pollinator health. Pollinators are insects that help spread pollen among flowers and although they may be small in size, they are essential to agricultural production and our daily lives.
Unfortunately, many native pollinators are in steady decline, which is why Georgia Power has established pollinator initiatives such as the LaGrange Solar Pollinator Research Project, which includes a Georgia Power Pollinator Habitat Area (PHA) research effort sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
The LaGrange Solar facility located off of I-85 at Exit 14 near LaGrange, Georgia is a partnership between Georgia Power, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, and approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission.
While the entire facility is 4.6 acres, one acre is specifically dedicated to pollinator research as part of this pilot program with EPRI to study the benefits of pollinator habitat development for native bees and butterflies at solar facilities on a large scale.
Construction of the LaGrange facility wrapped up in 2019 and shortly after in 2020, biologists planted locally appropriate native seed mixes to provide flowering species in a variety of colors. These specific plant species typically do not exceed two feet in height, which was an important factor in the selection process to ensure the plants would not interfere with the solar panels.
The project is in its third growing season and scientists visit the site monthly to gather data and gauge how native pollinators are responding to the newly planted wildflowers.
Over the past three years, an array of native pollinators have been documented across the newly established pollinator habitat, such as bumblebees, sweat bees, pearl crescent butterflies and monarch butterflies.
This project has already proven to be a success in supporting native pollinators, based on the substantial difference in habitat growth across the one-acre area with native flowers as opposed to the other section of the facility with traditional, grass vegetation. Based on the results from the study thus far, it is also anticipated that the meadow habitat will help reduce mowing and facility maintenance once fully established.
However, there is more work to be done and research will continue for at least another two years. Georgia Power is proud to work with our key partners on this project to support pollinator habitats and uphold the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship across the state.