An important feature of permaculture is the concept of stacking functions, or finding multiple uses for the same space or resource. North Carolina-based PineGate Renewables is taking this principle to a new level with the opening of the largest solar farm apiary in the U.S. Starting this week, the Eagle Point solar farm in Jackson County, Oregon will host 48 hives of honey bees underneath and between the solar panels. John Jacob of Old Sol Apiaries helped to determine the site’s suitability and will serve as the caretaker of the bees. “In 2016/17, Oregon beekeepers reported losing nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies statewide,” Jacob said. “The pollinator-friendly solar sites Pine Gate Renewables is developing can play an important role in helping address the population crisis among our managed and native pollinators.”

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Close-up image of a honey bee landed on a flower with solar panels in the backgroudn

Studies conducted on solar farm apiaries in the U.K. suggest these kinds of hybrid projects can increase the bee and insect pollinator population in a region, thus benefiting the natural environment and agricultural farms. A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that there are more than 16,000 acres of pollinator-dependent crops near 204 megawatts of solar energy facilities in Oregon alone.

Related: Bee Saving Paper “works like an energy drink for bees”

PineGate Renewables’ SolarCulture sites are planted with low-ground native flowers and grasses, which boost soil health, store storm water and support a healthy ecology. The specific vegetation plan for the Oregon site was designed by Colorado-based ecological services firm Regenerate, and by spring 2019, this site is expected to provide pollinator habitat equivalent to about 24,800 homes with 6’ x 12’ pollinator gardens maintained for 25 years. In the future, the buzz about PineGate Renewables’ pollinator project may inspire others to join forces to serve the public and the environment with solar farm apiaries.

+ PineGate Renewables

+ Old Sol Apiaries

Images via PineGateRenewables