Rehabilitated farmland used for solar energy facilities that are planted with native wildflowers and grasses can create lush habitats for insects, birds and bees, a new study has found.

The research, conducted by scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, found that insect numbers tripled in less than five years, a press release from Argonne National Laboratory said.

“Global declines in insect populations have important implications for biodiversity and food security,” the study’s authors wrote. “The expansion of utility-scale solar energy development in agricultural landscapes presents an opportunity for the dual use of the land for energy production and biodiversity conservation through the establishment of grasses and forbs planted among and between the photovoltaic solar arrays (‘solar-pollinator habitat’).”

For the five-year study, the researchers examined two southern Minnesota solar sites built on former agricultural land. They looked at how the newly planted vegetation would establish itself, as well as how communities of insects would respond to the restored habitat. Read more