Solar farms aren’t only good for generating clean energy. In the desert in Nevada, a solar farm is providing tortoises a habitat they can thrive in. Juvenile tortoises depend on plant cover to hide from predators, and fortunately for them, the shade below the solar panels allows many plants that tortoises rely on to thrive.
The fact that these plants thrive wasn’t by chance. In fact, the fixed-tilt panels were placed with the lower edge 18in higher off the ground than the industry standard to enable more vegetation to grow. The solar farm is surrounded by a classic chain-linked fence, but the developers have built little openings within the fences that let the small tortoises crawl into the little microclimate without inviting bigger animals.
Beyond providing cover for tortoises, the plants beneath the panels are also providing a good source of food for tortoises. Nevada isn’t the only place with a solar farm designed to help local animals. In Topaz, California, a solar farm is using special fencing to enable endangered San Joaquin kit foxes to access the site while keeping out primary predator coyotes.
All in all, these habitat-boosting projects provide yet another reason to support solar farms in natural spaces.