Powering Strong Communities

SMUD, EPRI Launch Pollinator Project at Former Nuclear Power Site

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently launched a project to restore prairie land and pollinator habitat on a portion of land at the site of a former nuclear power plant.

The SMUD Rancho Seco Restorative Energy Project is at the 2,000-acre site of the Rancho Seco nuclear plant that was decommissioned in 1989 and is part of native tribes' ancestral lands. It is now used for public recreation, an endangered species conservation bank, a sanctuary for rescued wildlife and is home of the 1,000-megawatt (MW) gas-fired Cosumnes power plant and a utility-scale solar power project, as well as the federally protected California Tiger Salamander.

The restoration project aims to create a pollinator habitat under solar arrays and along other portions of 20 acres of land at the Rancho Seco site in Sacramento County, Calif. The project will measure changes in energy, soil carbon, and management costs. Expected outcomes include the establishment of native plant species promoting pollinator habitats, EPRI said.

“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,” Jessica Fox, senior technical executive and conservation biologist at EPRI, said in a statement.

Collaborators in the four-year, multi-phase Restorative Energy Project include the University of California, Davis, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, and NovaSource Power.

SMUD is part of EPRI's Power-In-Pollinators initiative, which was launched in 2018 and is the largest collaboration of power companies in North America working to understand pollinators.

In addition to SMUD, several other public power utilities across the country are engaged in efforts to improve pollinator habitats, including Bonneville Power Administration, City Utilities of Springfield in Missouri, Lincoln Electric System in Nebraska, Logansport Municipal Utilities in Indiana, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Nebraska Public Power District, New York Power Authority, Omaha Public Power District, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, and Salt River Project.