Nebraska's Largest Solar Array is Surrounded by Bird-Friendly Plants
Photo: Vida Ward/Audubon Photography Awards
The clean-energy project in Kearney is landscaped with native plants that will help birds today and tomorrow.
KEARNEY, Neb. — Today, in coordination with Year of the Bird events happening throughout the year, the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary held an event to recognize and celebrate the bird- and wildlife-friendly design of the new solar array in Kearney. A collaboration between the City of Kearney, Nebraska Public Power District, and SoCore Energy, the entire 53-acre site has been landscaped with bird- and pollinator-friendly native plants.
City and state leaders gathered at the Rowe Sanctuary to share their unique perspectives on Kearney’s solar array and the growing national trend of solar sites that are seeded and managed to benefit wildlife as well as insects that provide beneficial services to agriculture. In a conversation moderated by Rob Davis of Fresh Energy, Nebraska leaders included:
- Mayor Stanley Clouse, City of Kearney
- Bill Taddicken, Director, Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary
- Jason Guernsey, Director of Business Attraction, Nebraska Department of Economic Development
- Jerry Vap, board member, Solutions from the Land; past Chairman of the Nebraska Public Service Commission; past president of the National Association of Conservation Districts
A recording of the conversation will be available online at Fresh-Energy.org/KearneySolar after March 15.
In response to the leadership on display, Audubon released the following statement:
“Solar sanctuaries combine native plants and clean energy— two solutions at the heart of Audubon’s mission to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow,” said Matthew Anderson, Audubon’s VP of climate.
“As Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report shows, 314 species of North American birds are threatened by climate change. Solar arrays play a key role in reaching the clean energy future both birds and people need. We’re grateful for the leadership on display today from the City of Kearney, Nebraska Public Power District, and SoCore Energy.”
In 2014, Audubon published its Birds and Climate Change Report. The study shows that more than half of the bird species in North America could lose at least half of their current ranges by 2080 due to rising temperatures. These species include the Bald Eagle, the American Kestrel and the Sandhill Crane. Given the urgent threat climate change poses to birds and people, Audubon supports common-sense, bipartisan solutions that reduce carbon pollution at the speed and scale necessary. Solar energy is a bird-friendly alternative to other power sources that emit greenhouse gasses driving climate change.
Landscaping with native plants is another way to protect birds and the places they need. Local birds co-evolved to depend on native plant species for food and shelter. As climate change shifts and shrinks suitable bird habitat, growing bird-friendly plants will help birds adapt. Through Audubon’s Plants for Birds one-of-a-kind public online database, anyone nationwide can access a list of native plants that benefit their favorite local bird species, by just typing in their ZIP code.
City, state leaders and project partners said:
“With this solar array Kearney is rolling out a lush green carpet to welcome business investment and capital as well as benefit the birds and wildlife that make our city great,” said Stanley Clouse, mayor of Kearney.
“This is a perfect win-win-win-win-win scenario. Native plants function to rebuild soils, store water, reduce erosion, and provide foraging habitat for bird and other wildlife,” said Ron Bowen, CEO of Prairie Restorations.
“Electric co-operatives in a growing number of states are designing and building solar arrays that benefit their members as well as birds and wildlife and the pollinators important to agriculture. With this bird- and pollinator-friendly solar array, Nebraska Public Power District demonstrates the values that make co-ops great,” said Rob Davis, director of Fresh Energy’s Center for Pollinators in Energy.
“As SoCore supports our customers in delivering their clean energy goals, we are also committed to being stewards of the environment in our host communities. Since 2016 our team has seeded more than 30 million native plants under and around the company’s solar projects. We are especially excited by our project in Kearney, NE as the native plantings provide a strong supportive habitat for the local eco-system and visiting wildlife,” said Eric Luesebrink, senior vice president of development for SoCore Energy.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
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