Sacramento Utility, EPRI collaborating on restoring pollinator habitats under Solar arrays

Dec. 16, 2022
The collaboration begins with restoration work on 20 acres at SMUD’s larger Rancho Seco site in northern California

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is working with the Electric Power Research Institute to restore prairie land and pollinator habitats under solar arrays.

The collaboration begins with restoration work on 20 acres at SMUD’s larger Rancho Seco project site in northern California. SMUD is the primary electricity provider for the state’s capital city.

The project team will create a pollinator habitat under established solar panels and measure changes in energy, soil carbon and management costs at the Rancho Seco restorative energy site. Expected outcomes include the establishment of native plant species promoting pollinator habitats and soil carbon monitoring.

“The Rancho Seco project is a unique collaboration at the intersection of communities, biodiversity, and climate-friendly energy,” said Jessica Fox, senior technical executive and conservation biologist at EPRI. “Successful demonstration could provide the blueprint for future renewable energy projects throughout the country that are restorative not just in their kilowatts, but also for local people and biodiversity."

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The restorative project is on the site of a decommissioned nuclear power plant and also part of tribal lands. Joining SMUD and EPRI will be the University of California-Davis, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments and NovaSource Power.

“We are excited for this project to consider multiple levels of energy including solar power, the energy needs of the biological ecosystem, and the restoration of cultural energy for our communities,” said Kathleen Ave, SMUD’s senior climate and ecosystem strategist and co-chair of the Power-In-Pollinators initiative.

The overall 2,000-acre property is now home to the Cosumnes Power Plant, a utility-scale solar project nature preserve, a regional recreation area, and the federally protected California Tiger Salamander. Conumnes includes a combined cycle gas turbine power plant, while renewable energy resources also are sited in the area.

SMUD is part of EPRI’s Power in Pollinators Initiative. Launched in 2018, the initiative is the largest collaboration of power companies in North America working to understand pollinators.

The Rancho Seco nuclear power plant was a 2.7-GW pressurized water reactor facility which operated from 1975 until its closing in 1989.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]). 

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