SILVIS, Ill. — One of the largest solar arrays in Rock Island County is now serving a dual purpose -- providing renewable energy and repopulating an endangered species.
Gary Anderson, a beekeeper for nearly a decade, said he was approached by Silvis city officials to move in five of his beehives to their newest solar array.
"My son lives in Silvis and I had bees at his house and they did really well," Anderson said. "I just needed a place to put more."
The solar array is surrounded with a locked fenced to protect both the panels and the bees, but Anderson said he has free reign to check on his hives at any moment.
"They’re well protected here, too," said Anderson's wife, Ronda. "With the fence around people aren’t bothering them and they’re not bothering anybody. They’re just doing their thing."
City Administrator, Jim Grafton, said the city paid $0 to install the group of 442 panels. The cost of construction was paid for by investor Ben Estep, who is the owner and developer of the land where the panels are located.
The panels rotate to follow the sun and provide the Silvis Police Department with 98% of its energy needs.
Over the term of the 30-year agreement, the city is projected to save $253,044 and a total of $3,956 in energy savings in the panels' first year alone.
Six months after installation, natural grasses now surround the panels. The grasses create "pollination stations" for pollinators like bees and butterflies while keeping the panels cool.
"We’ll see how [the five hives] do this winter with plans to move in three to five more," said Anderson.
Anderson said the bees typically travel more than two miles to get nectar - a benefit to the surrounding community's local harvests and gardens.
"All the gardens that are out there, all the people that have squash right now and pumpkins that are flowering, the honey bees love them," said Anderson.
Anderson's wife, Ronda, said she harvests enough honey from the hives to make it her full-time job. Her business, R's Honey, sells the local honey at North Park Mall on Wednesdays and Saturdays until noon as well as in Port Byron and Bettendorf.