The Connexus Energy company in Ramsey, Minnesota has a full-acre of solar panels and pollinator-friendly plants on the property. And now, it also has beehives. The Connexus array scored “exemplary” on the pollinator-friendly solar scorecard - and the company sees honey production as the next logical step.
Travis and Chiara Bolton are growing their operation to 600 beehives in various locations. They put 15 of those hives amongst the utility’s solar panels. Travis says it’s a great environment for a healthy bee location.
"They plant shade-tolerant flowers underneath the arrays because they’re being used for a solar yard," he says. "But then around the perimeter and between all the panels they can plant flowers that need sun."
Bolton Bees has the first commercial apiary in the nation located within a pollinator-friendly solar array. Connexus has pre-ordered 600 jars of honey, and is planning to give those jars to solar subscribers and use them for community charity events. Any excess honey goes back to the Bolton’s.
In the meantime, Travis says they’re in the process of developing multiple contracts like this with more solar developers.
"Say we have surplus honey from five different solar yards, then we can package that ourselves and sell it as Solar Honey with the story of the project on the jar," he says. "The whole initiative is to promote planting pollinator-friendly, promote solar power, and also promote local beekeeping."
The Boltons are licensing the Solar Honey trademark to third parties, so beekeepers who do similar projects and abide by the Bolton’s standards can put the Solar Honey certification logo on their own jars.
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