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Projects Updates for Increase Pollinator-Friendly Areas

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  1. Land & Water iCAP Meeting 11/7/2022

    On November 7th, the Land and Water iCAP team met to review the results of the Milkweed survey, make final edits to the Monarch Butterfly recommendation, and discuss new recommendations inspired by the Campus Landscape Master Plan.

    Meeting minutes are attached.

  2. L&W iCAP Meeting 9/16/2022

    On September 16th, the Land & Water iCAP team met to identify projects that need to be wrapped up, review the key priorities document, and discuss recommendations to be completed in the short term.

    Meeting minutes are attached.

  3. SSC Semesterly Report: Joint Pollinator Garden and Composting Systems to Offset Environmental Impact and Reinforce Responsible Stewardship in Research

    SSC received semesterly report for Fall 2021 for Joint Pollinator Garden and Composting Systems to Offset Environmental Impact and Reinforce Responsible Stewardship in Research on 12/17/2021. Please see attached. 

  4. SSC Semesterly Report: Joint Pollinator Garden and Composting Systems to Offset Environmental Impact and Reinforce Responsible Stewardship in Research

    SSC received semesterly report for Spring 2021 for Joint Pollinator and Composting Systems project on 9/14/2021. Please see attached. 

  5. Meeting Minutes from Pollinator Call (07-12-2021)

    On July 12, 2021, Adam Dolezal, May Berenbaum, Layne Knoche, Eliana Brown, Morgan White, and Avery Maloto met over Zoom to discuss pollinator efforts on campus. The conversation included topics such as: Bloom Calendar, Red Oak Rain Garden, Dorner Drive Retention Pond, Setting up a BioBlitz, and more.

    See the attached file to view the minute notes. 

  6. Article: Can Solar Farms Help Save Bees?

    Discover Magazine released an article highlighting the biodiversity benefits that can stem from pairing solar farms with pollinator-friendly plants. Supporting its claims with initiatives from universities across the country, the article recognizes the University of Illinois' pollinator habitat at Solar Farm 2.0.

    Read the article on Discover Magazine. Or, refer to the PDF of the article in the attached files.

     

  7. Florida-Orchard Prairie Pollinator Signage

    A 24" by 36" blank sign was installed at the corner of Florida Avenue and Orchard Street, by the Florida-Orchard prairie, near Orchard Downs and the Presidents’ House. The information planned to be featured in the sign will originate from the new Bee Campus brochure. This text will highlight the Bee Campus student organization, information about pollinators, as well as university and campus initiatives to be more pollinator-friendly. Thanks to funding by SSC, the signage will be ready for public display by the end of 2021!

    See the attached files to view the installation of the blank sign!

  8. Article: Pollinator Conservation on Solar Farms

    Entomology Today released an article highlighting the strategy and benefits behind pairing solar energy with pollinator habitats. Supporting its claims with UIUC and Iowa State initiatives, the article discusses content such as the scorecard approach, efficiency of the positioning of planted vegetation, and restrictions from geographic locations.

    Read the article on Entomology Today. Or, refer to the PDF of the article in the attached files.

  9. Final Stage of Ultra-Sustainable Solar Farm 2.0 Project

    Today, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Facilities & Services (F&S) announces the final stage of completion for Solar Farm 2.0, totaling 12.3 megawatts (DC), with the planting phase of the farm’s pollinator habitat commencing this month. The project is the second solar farm constructed at the U of I and achieves clean energy sustainability goals outlined in the university’s Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), nearly four years ahead of schedule. Clean energy production will now support approximately 12 percent of the school’s annual electricity demand. The planting of the project’s native pollinator habitat bookmarks the solar farm’s unique array of state-of-the-art technological and sustainable features.

    The site’s 54 acres will serve as a major demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar arrays. The University of Illinois Solar Farm 2.0 project exceeded the required 85 minimum points established by the State of Illinois’ Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. With 134 points achieved on the pollinator scorecard, including the adjacent landscape buffer, the solar array officially “Provides Exceptional Habitat.” The custom seed mix designed by Natural Resource Services, with more than 21 different plant types that are native to the area, will make the land between and around the panels more resilient and create a natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds and beneficial insects. In total, the site will contain more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.

    Solar Farm 2.0 was developed by national solar energy firm Sol Systems, which built the farm with innovative features such as bifacial solar panels, single-axis trackers, pollinator habitat, and zero waste construction practices. This project is among the most technologically advanced and sustainable solar projects in the U.S. Through the firm’s development wing, Sol Customer Solutions, a joint venture between Sol Systems and Capital Dynamics, Capital Dynamics will serve as owners of the project with Sol Systems managing the asset throughout the 20-year term of the agreement.

    F&S Executive Director Dr. Mohamed Attalla said, “In only four months, Solar Farm 2.0 has already become an integral part of the university’s energy enterprise. There are days when the array is meeting almost 30 percent of the university’s electrical demand for that day. It has been extraordinary to watch this site’s renewable energy make an immediate impact to support learning and discovery across campus.”

    Since the array was energized on January 29, 2021, the installation has produced over 4,000 megawatt hours (MWh). On May 1, Solar Farm 2.0 provided its largest output of 102 MWh in a single day, enough to offset the consumption of more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline. This installation puts the university at the top of the list for onsite clean energy production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In combination with other solar installations on campus, the Urbana campus is now generating approximately 27,000 MWh/year, ranking UIUC third amongst U.S. universities in onsite clean power production.

    The University will purchase all energy produced by the array under a power purchase agreement (PPA) at a fixed price over a 20-year term. In addition to the long-term fixed rate, which hedges UIUC against future utility price uncertainty, the PPA allows the university to go solar with no upfront costs, providing an expected $300,000 in savings in the first year alone.

    “The use of innovative technology and land-use practices and strong, ongoing partnership between Sol Systems and the University of Illinois is what makes this project so remarkable,” said William Graves, Director of Originations at Sol Systems. “Solar Farm 2.0 is a marquee project not only for the university but also for the state of Illinois.” 

    Sol Systems partnered with South Bend, Indiana-based Inovateus Solar, which constructed the solar arrays. Inovateus used reduced-waste construction practices that prevented as much as 45 tons of materials from reaching landfills. Specifically, Inovateus worked with F&S Waste Management to recycle nearly 94 percent of the project’s construction packaging, plastics, wood pallets, and other refuse.

    “Inovateus Solar is truly excited to have partnered with Sol Systems and contributed our best practices for sustainable solar construction. We believe this solar farm will be the new role model for ultra-sustainable solar development,” said T.J. Kanczuzewski, CEO of Inovateus Solar. “We're also proud to have assisted U of I in meeting an important sustainability goal for the campus. Helping to preserve the environment for current and future students and faculty directly reflects our company mission of ‘building a brilliant tomorrow.’’’    

    Academic collaboration is a major theme emphasized in the F&S Strategic Plan because using the campus as a living learning laboratory for students and researchers is essential to the success of the university. Sol Systems and Inovateus worked with students in the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment’s campuswide sustainability minor to assess the carbon footprint of Solar Farm 2.0 from sourcing to installation. Sol Systems will use the reports, produced by the student groups as part of their Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program capstone, to assess potential sustainability improvements to all future projects.

    The University hopes to offer onsite tours this fall, along with a celebratory ribbon-cutting for the project.

    ###

    University of Illinois Contact:

    Steve Breitwieser

    Customer Relations & Communications

    Facilities & Services

    sbreit@illinois.edu

    217-300-2155

     

    Sol Systems Contact:

    Will Patterson

    Manager, Marketing and Communications

    Sol Systems

    William.patterson@solsystems.com

    240-778-3530

     

    ABOUT FACILITIES & SERVICES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA-CHAMPAIGN

    Facilities & Services (F&S), at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, provides all physical plant, operational, and essential services for sustaining an environment that fosters research, teaching, and public engagement activities. F&S supports the university’s education, research, and outreach missions by improving the physical condition of the facilities and grounds through construction and building maintenance activities, providing utilities production and distribution, implementing energy conservation initiatives, and increasing customer satisfaction by delivering quality services in a responsive, reliable, and customer-focused manner. Visit www.fs.illinois.edu to learn more.

    ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS

    Sol Systems is a leading national solar energy firm with an established reputation for integrity and reliability across its development, infrastructure and environmental commodity businesses. To date, Sol has developed and/or financed over 1 GW of solar projects valued at more than $1 billion for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, counties, utilities, universities and schools. The company also actively shapes and trades in environmental commodity and electricity markets throughout the United States. The company was founded in 2008, is based in Washington, D.C., and is led by its founder. Sol Systems works with its team, partners, and clients to create a more sustainable future we can all believe in. For more information, visit https://www.solsystems.com/.

    ABOUT CAPITAL DYNAMICS

    Capital Dynamics is an independent global asset management firm focusing on private assets including private equity, private credit and clean energy infrastructure.

    Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure is one of the largest renewable energy investment managers in the world with USD 6.6 billion AUM and has one of the longest track records in the industry. The CEI strategy was established to capture attractive investment opportunities in the largest and fastest growing sector of global infrastructure – proven renewable energy technologies, primarily in North America and Europe, across solar, onshore wind, energy storage and related infrastructure with a focus on both utility-scale and distributed generation technologies. The CEI platform’s fully-integrated asset management affiliate provides highly-specialized services to ensure optimal performance and value from projects. The CEI strategy currently manages 7.9 GWdc of contracted gross power generation across more than 150 projects in the United States and Europe, and is one of the top 3 global solar PV owners.

    As a sustainable asset manager, we have gone beyond standard ESG requirements by designing, implementing and trademarking the Capital Dynamics R-Eye™ Rating System – a unique, best-in-class approach to diligence and rating of each investment based on PRI principles and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Since Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure platform’s inception in 2010, over 19 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided as a result of the firm’s renewable investments. This is equivalent to the power needed to supply more than 3 million homes or passenger vehicles for one year.

    In 2020, the CEI strategy received top rankings from GRESB (the ESG benchmark for real assets) for commitment to sustainability, and in 2019 awarded Global PE Energy Firm of the Year by Private Equity International. For more information, please visit: www.capdyn.com.

    ABOUT INOVATEUS SOLAR

    Inovateus Solar is a leading solar and energy storage development, EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction), and supply company in the Midwest United States. Headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, the company has built over 500 MW of utility, commercial, industrial, and education sector solar projects. With deep roots in the communities that it serves, Inovateus has been a strong employer and invested millions of dollars in the Indiana economy in support of its commitment to invest in the energy future of its clients.

     

    Attached Files: 
  10. Pollinator Scorecard identifies project as exceptional habitat

    The site’s 54 acres will serve as a major demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar arrays. The University of Illinois Solar Farm 2.0 project exceeded the required 85 minimum points established by the State of Illinois’ Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. With 134 points achieved on the pollinator scorecard, including the adjacent landscape buffer, the solar array officially “Provides Exceptional Habitat.” The custom seed mix designed by Natural Resource Services, with more than 21 different plant types that are native to the area, will make the land between and around the panels more resilient and create a natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds and beneficial insects. In total, the site will contain more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.

  11. Findings at the Farm - F&S Insider article

    A team of researchers will be measuring the impact of natural vegetation at the Solar Farm 2.0 grounds. Below the 31,122 bi-facial solar panels lie 54 acres perfect for pollinator-friendly plantings.

    But how exactly does one calculate the plants’ effectiveness? How about: count the bugs.

    Ben Campbell, an energy engineer at the University of Illinois Chicago, is part of a research effort that will do exactly that, and more. Their research will also address other matters at Solar Farm 2.0, including how the pollinator plants affect the efficiency of the solar panels’ power production, and how quickly and strongly the pollinator plantings grow.

    Additionally, F&S Utilities & Energy Services are a support team member for the research project which will study the economic and ecological benefits of planting native and other flowering plants under and around solar arrays. In order to count the bugs, a few times a year researchers will catch flying insects over the course of a day. The insects they collect will be taken to the Bee Research Facility on the Urbana campus where they will be identified and archived, under the guidance of Dr. Adam Dolezal.

    This might seem standard practice for a new test site with new plantings. What may surprise the reader is another research question: where and how many birds and bats will come around for feeding time?

    “The research is driven by the solar industry’s questions about the colocation of solar power production and pollinator habitat,” said Campbell. “Our research seeks to understand what scale of habitat is necessary to have measurable impacts on pollinator, bird, and bat populations at utility-scale solar facilities, in addition to benefits in terms of increased power production or lifecycle costs of managing vegetation. We are excited to have the opportunity to test these questions in our own backyard at Solar Farm 2.0.”

    Using acoustic and ultrasonic recorders, the team will record bird and bat abundance and diversity, respectively, over time, measuring wildlife elements until at least 2023.

    The research project, led by Iris Caldwell at the Energy Resources Center at University of Illinois Chicago, is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office. Her research team consists of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIC, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Six solar facility test sites have been selected for field research across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This includes the 12 MW Solar Farm 2.0 facility at UIUC. In partnership with F&S and Sol Systems (the site operator) the research team will evaluate the effects of the pollinator plantings on photovoltaic and ecological performance and compare operational costs with facilities that use conventional ground cover (usually turf grass). In addition, Solar Farm 1.0 may be used as a control site for comparison for performance and pollinator observation.

  12. Pollinator Planting happening soon for Solar Farm 2.0

    The Solar Farm 2.0 developer will be planting the Solar Farm 2.0 site next week.  On May 7, 2021, they will spray an herbicide mixture to prepare the site.Here are the details they provided:

    Glyphosate 41 herbicide and/or Ranger Pro.  They are both generic glyphosate-based herbicides. Ranger Pro includes a water-based surfactant in their formulation.    We will be adding a methylated seed oil for a surfactant.  We will not be using a spray dye in the mix to avoid residue on the panels.

  13. Photo Archive 2011-2020

    Beginning in 2011 Alice Berkson began taking photos at the Florida – Orchard prairie on campus next to the President’s House.  The photos were taken each month from the same locations beginning in 2013.  The two years prior to that all 12 months are not represented.  A few photos are missing including all of October 2015.   A few extra shots are occasionally included of unusual situations or plants.   

    See https://uofi.box.com/s/cfmmscpv2335f57g7nzngx4g8nf4cqgj to view or download the images.

    The photos are in yearly folders.  Individual photos are labeled with the date first YYYY-MM-DD so that they will sort in order.   

    Photos were taken at the four corners.  At the North corners along Florida Avenue shots were taken east to west and west to east as well as diagonally from NE looking SW, and from NW looking SE.  At the southern corners, only the diagonal photos were taken.   

    The resolution on the photos is high so that small sections can be enlarged to identify plants and other features.   

    As of this writing the series is complete from 2011 through 2020.  

    John C. Marlin  January, 2021 

     

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