Updated July 29 at 8:30 a.m.
Randolph County, east of Muncie, has passed an ordinance requiring solar farms to have pollinator habitats. This follows the company EDP Renewables’ plans to build a 200 megawatt farm there.
Groups in favor of the ordinance hope it will not only benefit pollinators and other wildlife, but the neighbors as well.
“Can you imagine driving down the countryside and seeing just fields and fields of wildflowers that ‘oh hey, yeah, they happen to have some solar panels in them?’ But you know, it's beautiful," said Julie Borgmann, executive director of the Red Tail Land Conservancy.
Borgmann said the Land Conservancy doesn’t take a stance on solar farms. She said some Randolph County residents have expressed concerns the Riverstart Solar Park could drive down property values.
“It’s so important for our counties to kind of take a lead and try and shape and move things in a way that's positive for the community and not just feel like we have to welcome economic development at whatever cost," she said.
At first, solar company EDP Renewables was unsure it could deliver as much pollinator habitat as the county wanted. The county originally asked for 20 percent of the land to be covered in native plants, but EDP asked that be cut in half.
Erin Bowser directs project management for the company’s eastern region. She said, since then, EDP has educated itself about native plants and consulted local experts.
“And we were able to get more comfortable within our own company that we were going to be able to do something really fantastic,” Bowser said.
Randolph County has since removed any reference to a minimum amount of pollinator habitat required.
Henry County is considering a similar ordinance that would require pollinator habitats on solar farms.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the story stated that Randolph County settled on a requirement that at least 10 percent of solar farms be covered by pollinator habitat, according to a member of the Randolph County Area Planning Commission Board. That was incorrect. Randolph County removed any reference to a minimum amount of pollinator habitat required.