In addition to helping businesses, the environment and the economy, solar can also benefit some of our four-legged friends. Solar grazing is the practice of grazing livestock on solar farms. This practice is widespread in Europe and becoming more popular in the U.S since rural areas are often the most desirable sites for large, ground-mount solar installations.
We recently deployed our first solar grazing project at our 2.4 MW installation in Halfmoon, New York. The system is divided into two separate sub-systems: the first part generates power that is allocated to several Stewart’s Shops convenience stores, while the second part serves as a community solar project, allotting power to local homeowners. The extensive array requires routine land maintenance to prevent vegetation from overgrowing and shading the panels. Typically, this requires hiring large landscaping contractors to mow the lawn. Not only can this option be expensive, but mowers also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and can leave pieces of debris on the panels that negatively impact system performance.
At Halfmoon, we decided to incorporate a more sustainable option for vegetation control by using sheep from Fortunate Ewe Farm shepherded by Ashley Bridge. The sheep maintain the grounds during the spring and summer seasons (April-September), as they are not required in the winter months. Sheep are the preferred animals for solar grazing since they are small and nimble and pose minimal risks to the solar equipment. Their costs are comparable to mowing and will likely decrease in the future as our grazing operation becomes more efficient. More importantly, the sheep provide a natural solution that is beneficial for soil health and applies an additional purpose to the land.
Solar grazing is truly a win-win for both agriculture and renewable energy. The practice diversifies and increases the revenues of local farmers while allowing them to care for their sheep. Meanwhile, the local community benefits from the availability of healthy, pasture-raised, grass-fed lamb. And according to our shepherdess, Ashley Bridge, the solar farm is also beneficial to the sheep. Not only are the sheep able to freely roam instead of being confined in barns and eating a grain-based diet, but she has noticed the shade from the panels also keeps the sheep happier and healthier than those that have to stay out in the sun all day. According to her, “this is the happiest life a sheep could have.”
We are proud of the continued success and benefits of the sheep at Halfmoon. We believe sheep grazing is a long-term option for maintaining the grounds at Halfmoon and hope we can continue this practice at more large-scale ground-mount systems.
If you are interested in solar grazing or going solar, PowerFlex can provide a tailored, complimentary technical and financial analysis based on your real estate portfolio, energy usage, and available state and utility incentives. PowerFlex is agnostic to project structuring and provides a turnkey solar solution for corporate clients. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-225-0270.
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