Idaho doesn’t just have one of the fastest-growing populations—it is also getting more attention for its solar facilities. Each year, the grid-connected capacity in the state keeps on increasing. In 2019, it reached 573 megawatts, a 15 percent increase compared to the previous year.
In 2016, the solar industry in the state experienced its biggest increased megawatt capacity when it went up from 4.6 in 2015 to a staggering 300.6. That’s a massive change of over 6,400 percent!
Couple this with federal and state solar tax incentives and significantly lower installation and purchase costs, and you have more residents opting for solar power.
But there’s one good—and environmentally friendly reason—homeowners and businesses need to support energy harnessed from the sun. It can help bring back the bees.
Why Idaho Needs Bees
By now, most people already know that the bee population is in crisis. Although no one knows for sure the exact number of species affected by problems like habitat loss and rapid urbanization, it’s clear to say that their demographic has been declining over the years.
According to earthday.org, about one in four wild bee species in the United States is at risk of going extinct. In 2017, the US Fish and Wildlife Service added the rusty-patched bumblebee to the endangered species list after its population declined by over 85 percent.
Even US beekeepers struggle to keep these tiny winged creatures alive. They have been reporting losing as much as 30 percent of their beehives. Since 2006, the industry has lost around 10 million hives, an equivalent of at least $2 billion.
But the world, especially Idaho, needs bees for a variety of reasons. First, as pollinators, they help improve food security. With their efforts, they contribute almost $25 billion to the country’s agriculture industry and produce about 33 percent of the consumed food in the country.
As an agricultural state, Idaho needs these animals to support the growth of produce, such as apples, tomatoes, and even potatoes, currently one of the state’s primary crops. They are actually pollinated partly or completely by different types of bees, including honey bees and bumblebees.
Bees are the only way the world can produce authentic honey, which manufacturers can now use for food and cosmetics and some medical-grade supplies because of its antibacterial properties.
Idaho is one of the top ten producers of honey in the country. According to the Honey Industry Association, the state produces over 3.3 million pounds of liquid gold annually. It also maintains at least 140,000 honeybee colonies.
How the Solar Industry Can Help Bring Back the Bees
Bees need food to survive, and so they scour through flowers and other plants. They even have to make multiple trips before they can obtain their much-needed supply.
It is during their hopping and flying from plant to plant that pollination can occur. As they sip the nectar of one plant, the pollen from the male’s reproductive organ, stamen, attach to the body and feet. When the bees move to the next flower, they can deposit the pollen into the female reproductive organ called the pistil.
One of the most critical issues with bee decline and, thus, the potential risk of food insecurity in America is their loss of habitat and source of food. Solar farms can contribute to this.
To produce a massive amount of energy that can power enough homes or communities, solar power requires tracts or acres of land. While some may be barren, others may be a potential source of food for pollinators.
Luckily, the solution is both simple and effective. It turns out that these solar plants can also function as pollinator-friendly sites.
In a 2021 Lancaster University research, there are 10 evidence-based ways that solar energy can help bring back the population of bees. The well-established ones include:
- Adding flowering plants (preferably those that are native to the state to increase the chances of survival of these plants)
• Giving season-long access to foraging resources
• Growing sown vegetation
• Introducing diversity in vegetation
• Creating a semi-natural or heterogeneous landscape
• Promoting organic farming
• Applying agrochemicals
Moreover, using solar farms or installing panels in Idaho homes can help reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuel and the production of carbon emissions. In turn, this benefits the bees because climate change can impact the growth of their sources of nectar, while air pollution can mask the scent of these plants, making it difficult for the animals to forage.
No doubt, the United States shouldn’t look back when it comes to solar energy. But it can also do better in preserving the earth by bringing bees back to life.