June 8 2020 07:56 AM

Company will require all future solar projects include pollinator-friendly ground cover.

Photo: Perdue

Perdue Farms announces it has become the first poultry company in the United States to have pollinator-friendly ground cover at a company solar installation. It is located at the company’s headquarters in Salisbury, Maryland. The announcement coincides with World Environment Day on June 5, which celebrates biodiversity this year.

“Given Perdue Farms’ long-standing commitment to being good stewards, having the area at our 5-acre solar field at our headquarters become a pollinator-friendly habitat was a no-brainer for us,” says Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for Perdue Farms. “There is a growing body of research that shows pollinator habitat can help increase yields of a variety of fruits and vegetables, including soybeans – one of the key components of a chicken’s diet – so we wanted to do something that has the potential to benefit the environment as well as the farmers near our headquarters.”

“Additionally, the land directly under solar panels has traditionally been filled with gravel or grass, and the cost to create and maintain a pollinator habitat is roughly the same, so there’s no financial barrier to incorporating pollinator-friendly ground cover into the facility,” adds Levitksy. “Because of these benefits, we are planning to require pollinator-friendly ground cover at future company solar projects in order to provide even more benefits to the communities in which they are located. Asking for pollinator-friendly solar is a great way for electric utilities and corporations to ensure the solar energy they are buying does not result in negative tradeoffs.”

A pollinator-friendly ground cover consists of a variety of flowering plants that provide food in the form of nectar and pollen in each growing season. It contains a mixture of plants that bloom from early spring to late fall so that flowers will be available when pollinators are active. The species were selected to be low-growing to keep from shading the panels, as well as deep-rooted to be resilient to periods of intense sun and rain.

The company partnered with Fresh Energy, a catalyzer of pollinator-friendly solar, and the Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund, whose mission is to increase and improve pollinator forage and habitat via their NextGen Habitat Project pollinator-focused seed mixes.

The Perdue Farms habitat consists of 41 different types of flowers and grasses including black-eyed Susan, alsike clover, sawtooth sunflower, narrow-leaf milkweed, purple coneflower and more. Jim Passwaters, environmental vegetative buffers coordinator for Delmarva Poultry Industry, prepared the site and planted the seeds. In total, more than 250,000 native and pollinator-friendly plants are growing on the solar array adjacent to Perdue Farms’ headquarters.

This is the first year the habitat has been in bloom. Planting took place in 2018, and it took two years for the seeds to take root and bloom.