Modeling the Ecosystem Services of Native Vegetation Management Practices at Solar Energy Facilities in the Midwestern United States

Leroy Walston, Yudi Li, Heidi Hartmann, Jordan Macknick, Aaron Hanson, Chris Nootenboom, Eric Lonsdorf, Jessica Hellmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus Citations

Abstract

The increasing pressure on land resources for food and energy production along with efforts to maintain natural systems necessitates the development of compatible land uses that maximize the co-benefits of multiple ecosystem services. One such land sharing opportunity is the restoration and management of native grassland vegetation beneath ground-mounted solar energy facilities, which can both protect biodiversity and restore related ecosystem services. In this paper, we applied the InVEST modeling framework to investigate the potential response of four ecosystem services (carbon storage, pollinator supply, sediment retention, and water retention) to native grassland habitat restoration at 30 solar facilities across the Midwest United States. Compared to pre-solar agricultural land uses, solar-native grassland habitat produced a 3-fold increase in pollinator supply and a 65% increase in carbon storage potential. We also observed increases in sediment and water retention of over 95% and 19%, respectively. We applied these results to project the potential benefits of adoption of native grassland management practices in current and future solar energy buildout scenarios. Our study demonstrates how multifunctional land uses in agriculture-dominated landscapes may improve the provision of a variety of ecosystem services and improve the landscape compatibility of renewable energy and food production.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number101227
Number of pages9
JournalEcosystem Services
Volume47
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-77778

Keywords

  • Landscape planning
  • Native grassland
  • Renewable energy
  • Restoration
  • Solar energy
  • Vegetation management

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