SETO FY22 SolWEB Funding Program graphic

The Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits (SolWEB) funding program is developing innovative solutions and strategies that maximize benefits and minimize impacts to wildlife and ecosystems from solar energy infrastructure.

Research funded under SolWEB will produce results with broad relevance to solar stakeholders by establishing methods, technologies, models, best management practices, or other resources that facilitate ground-mounted photovoltaic energy generation, including utility-scale and community solar or concentrating solar-thermal power, that is compatible with surrounding ecosystems. The SolWEB funding program includes two topic areas: (1) Wildlife-Solar Energy Interactions and (2) Ecosystem Services from Solar Facilities.

The selected wildlife projects will expand the understanding of how pronghorn, pollinators, birds, and other species interact with solar energy facilities through the development of new monitoring technologies, the evaluation of management strategies that benefit wildlife, and the creation of data-sharing infrastructure.

Projects focused on ecosystem services, or the benefits that ecosystems provide to humans, are gathering data on services such as carbon sequestration, pollination, and ground and stormwater management at solar facilities to develop frameworks and tools that could inform solar site selection and design decisions.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the SolWEB funding opportunity on March 1, 2022 and the nine selected projects on October 17, 2022.


SolWEB projects are gathering foundational information to characterize solar energy’s interactions with wildlife and the nearby ecosystem. The collected data will inform the development of models, tools, and methodologies for monitoring and managing solar-wildlife interactions and assessing ecosystem services from solar energy facilities. Selected projects are being led by diverse teams and leveraging expertise from academia, the solar industry, nonprofit groups, tribal nations, state and federal agencies, and local communities. Through these inclusive, stakeholder-driven research projects, the research teams aim to maximize the relevance and usefulness of their project outputs.

In addition, the research teams will implement diversity, equity, and inclusion plans to integrate priorities of underserved communities and encourage participation of researchers from underrepresented groups. Researchers will actively engage with communities hosting large-scale solar projects to better understand how research outcomes can be applied to improve solar siting outcomes.


These research activities will help reduce barriers, costs, and timelines for the deployment of large-scale solar energy necessary to meet the Biden Administration’s goals for achieving a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035. DOE’s Solar Futures Study found that meeting the goal could require as much as 5.7 million acres of land for solar energy development. While that is less than 0.3% of the contiguous land area in the United States, this expansion will increase the interactions between solar energy facilities and the surrounding environment. SolWEB research will help ensure those interactions are managed in a way that enables greater solar deployment with minimal adverse impacts on wildlife or the environment.


-- Award and cost share amounts are rounded and subject to change pending negotiations --

Topic Area 1: Wildlife-Solar Energy Interaction

Cornell University

Project Name: Leveraging eDNA for a National Pollinator-Solar Energy Monitoring and Research Network
Location: Ithaca, NY

DOE Award Amount: $2 million
Cost Share: $500,000
Principal Investigator: Steven Grodsky

Project Summary: This project will deploy and validate a new monitoring technology, environmental DNA (eDNA), to characterize pollinator biodiversity at solar facilities in several regions of the United States. eDNA is genetic material that is shed by organisms and can be collected in the environment and used to identify species. Project results will be used to develop best management practices for pollinator-friendly solar energy development, including siting, vegetation management, and design.

Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute

Project Name: Developing a Solar-Wildlife Database to Improve Siting and Permitting of Solar Energy Facilities
Location: Washington, DC
DOE Award Amount: $580,000

Cost Share: $80,000
Principal Investigator: Joshua Ennen

Project Summary: This project is designing and constructing a nationwide solar-wildlife data-sharing infrastructure that enables stakeholders to assess solar-wildlife interactions and wildlife management practices to maximize benefits from solar development. The project team will leverage its experience developing data-sharing infrastructure for the wind industry and will solicit input from stakeholders to develop standardized data collection instruments that enable data from different solar facilities to be compared.

Sandia National Laboratories

Project Name: Smart Surveillance and Mitigation Measures to Reduce Avian Flux Hazards at Concentrating Solar Power Towers (SMART)
Location: Albuquerque, NM

DOE Award Amount: $2 million
Cost Share: $220,000
Principal Investigator: Daniel Small

Project Summary: This project is developing smart surveillance technology to detect birds and studying measures to reduce bird fatalities at concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) facilities in the Southwest. The team is using new camera-based technology coupled with improved modeling to identify areas in the solar field of high risk to birds. The resulting surveillance technology could be used to trigger risk-reduction strategies, such as acoustic deterrents, and minimize avian fatalities at CSP facilities.

University of Arkansas

Project Name: WildSNaP: Wildlife in Solar through Native Planting
Location: Fayetteville, AR

DOE Award Amount: $1.3 million
Cost Share: $140,000
Principal Investigator: John Willson

Project Summary: This project is conducting a first-of-its-kind assessment of wildlife presence at large-scale solar facilities in Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Researchers are quantifying bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and insect species to compare biodiversity at solar facilities with native vegetation, solar facilities with conventional groundcover like gravel, and nearby reference sites. Through landscape-level analyses, the project will provide new insight into the interactions between solar energy infrastructure and wildlife communities while assessing the potential benefits of native vegetation management practices within solar facilities.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Project Name: Informing Wildlife Conservation Strategies and Best Practice for Solar Facilities
Location: Amherst, MA

DOE Award Amount: $1.2 million
Cost Share: $140,000
Principal Investigator: Timothy Randhir

Project Summary: Bird use of large-scale solar sites for vital activities such as nesting, has been reported, but data is lacking on which bird species are using these sites and whether bird populations are benefiting from the created habitat. This project is conducting the first assessment of bird reproductive success at solar facilities in the Northeast. The team is also using emerging bioacoustics technology to study insect biodiversity at solar facilities. Results from these analyses will provide data for the development of resources and tools that can improve habitat and wildlife management decisions at large-scale solar facilities in the Northeast.

Wildlands Network (Wild Earth Society)

Project Name: Testing Solar Energy Siting Guidelines for Mammals in High Desert Ecosystems
Location: Santa Fe, NM

DOE Award Amount: $1.7 million
Cost Share: $190,000
Principal Investigator: Aaron Facka

Project Summary: This project is studying pronghorn and other mammal activity and distribution before and after installation of large-scale solar energy systems near the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. In collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, native tribes, and state agencies, researchers will monitor movement patterns of pronghorn and other mammals, such as prairie dogs and coyotes, as solar projects are developed in the region. Results from this study will help researchers and regulatory bodies understand the effects of fencing and habitat fragmentation associated with large-scale solar energy development in the West and inform best management practices for minimizing negative impacts.

Topic Area 2: Ecosystem Services from Solar Facilities

Argonne National Laboratory

Project Name: Ground Mounted Solar and Soil-Related Ecosystem Services
Location: Lemont, IL

DOE Award Amount: $2 million
Cost Share: $670,000
Principal Investigator: Heidi Hartmann

Project Summary: This project is developing a national database of soil health at ground-mounted solar facilities. Researchers are developing sampling and analytical protocols for soil organic carbon and other constituents of interest (e.g., nitrogen and pesticides) to assess soil health at solar facilities nationwide. Data-sharing infrastructure will be used to track carbon sequestration in soil and monitor changes in soil health attributes at solar installations over time.

Cornell University

Project Name: Holistic Framework to Assess the Costs and Benefits of Ecosystem Services at Solar Facilities
Location: Ithaca, NY

DOE Award Amount: $1.5 million
Cost Share: $500,000
Principal Investigator: K. Max Zhang

Project Summary: This project is developing a tool for assessing the costs and benefits of ecosystem services provided over the lifetime of community- and utility-scale solar projects in the Northeast U.S. The project team will develop models and collect real-world data at operating solar projects to evaluate the modeling framework. The project team is working closely with industry partners and host communities to produce an adaptable tool that can inform site design decisions for solar projects.

Great Plains Institute

Project Name: Designing and Deploying Solar for Community Ecosystem Benefits
Location: Minneapolis, MN

DOE Award Amount: $1.9 million
Cost Share: $515,000
Principal Investigator: Nathaniel Springer

Project Summary: This project is developing a framework to help stakeholders evaluate ecosystem services from solar facilities in the Midwest. The project team will engage underserved and energy transition communities and collect data on soil health, carbon sequestration, and surface and groundwater at solar facilities. The resulting framework will allow both host communities and solar developers to incorporate ecosystem services into solar siting, development and operational decisions.

Learn more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s soft costs research, funding programs, and open funding opportunities.