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Plants are in bloom around and beneath the 6,669 solar panels in our 10-acre solar field.
Unlike a traditional solar field, the Longwood solar field is not surrounded by gray gravel and black pavement. Starting this year and over the next few years, visitors will see native flowers, grasses, and other plant life blooming beneath and around our solar panels.
Our Plant Healthcare Division Leader Casey Sclar, Ph.D. gives us an exclusive look at the research and guiding principles used for developing an environmentally low-impact plan to make our solar field not only a sustainable way to generate electricity, but a naturally beautiful landscape design, too.
“From the beginning of the solar field project it was of paramount importance that we imposed as little impact on the original field as possible—with a goal that the finished field would be as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of our Longwood Gardens landscapes,” says Sclar.
Throughout the entire installation of the solar field the site had minimal grading and the entire perimeter was seeded with Little Bluestem, Virginia Wild Rye, Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, and Autumn Bentgrass.
“Overall, with the creation of this solar field and its re-vegetation, Longwood wanted to be a leader and create a model for other gardens and businesses to use. We want people to see that solar fields can be beautiful and not feel like an intrusion on a natural landscape,” says Sclar.
Sclar says his team of researchers developed five mixes in October 2010 to test-plant in the solar field. As soon as the solar panels were in place and the solar field started producing electricity, Longwood got to work and started the re-vegetation process.
Sclar and his team will measure the results and success of each of these mixes and will continue to work on refinement over the next five years.
Specifically four seed mixes were laid in different and alternating sections throughout the solar field in late May 2011. This fall Longwood will plant the final plug mix in the field.
And how are our mixes doing?
So far so good says Sclar who has seen germination out in the field. “It’s still too early to tell which of our mixes will be real winners—but these beginning stages are promising,” says Sclar.
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Enjoy family-fun activities, an outdoor concert, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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