When it comes to solar farms, sheep are great groundsmen

expansion / Sheep can be safely grazed.

What creates a good place for livestock and a good place for solar farms often overlaps. They are both large, very flat, without tall vegetation and exposed to a considerable amount of sun. As a result, solar producers are increasingly leasing farmland for their business.

Increasing solar power has environmental benefits, but it can come at the cost of reduced agricultural production. Therefore, there is growing interest in finding a way to combine ag and solar power in one place. For Todd Schmidt, an associate professor of agribusiness at Cornell University, this means taking sheep out.

It’s still a new field (Editor’s Note: Doug was too unintentional and Doug didn’t even see it until I asked), but some farmers are affiliated with solar producers, The former uses the latter land for grazing. Solar producers pay farmers to ship their sheep to their business, and sheep eat weeds and other plants that may grow to the point where the sun blocks them from reaching the panels. ..

Sheep are fed, farmers are paid, and solar producers manage vegetation without the use of lawnmowers or weed mowers. According to the industry, the industry has been expanding in New York since 2017. Report According to the American Sun Grazing Association (ASGA). The report states that the Empire State is currently grazing 900 acres of solar energy production. However, there is still plenty of room for growth.

Why sheep?

Currently, lamb and mutton are rarely produced in the United States.according to USDA, More than half of this meat is imported from New Zealand and Australia. As a result, sheep also produce wool and milk, so grazing sheep with solar panels can be a little growing area, not just meat. Schmidt said the United States is currently consuming less lamb, but the domestic market is growing. Raising livestock in the United States can also strengthen the local economy.

There are several reasons why sheep are a good choice for grazing on solar farms. For one thing, they are shorter than cows and horses. They also eat most types of feed and help control plant growth. Goats, on the other hand, will chew almost anything. This is a bit risky on a solar farm.

“Cow and horses are too big and you can do damage by rubbing the panel,” Schmidt said. “Goats eat wire. Sheep don’t. Go to the figure. Sheep are like the best medium for this.”

Sunny tendency

Recently received Schmidt $ 500,000 Three-year funding (half from Cornell, the other half from USDA). Funding is to help expand the practice of solar sheep through the establishment of business co-operatives or producer-owned organizations. The project is called “The New Dawn of the Shepherds: Grazing Sheep Under a Practical Solar Array”. Schmidt has partnered with ASGA, a non-profit organization that connects a variety of farmers, PV industry experts, and sheep farmers with solar producers. Together, they decide what the New Dawn will look like and what it will offer to farmers who want to expand sheep production on their solar farms.

This process involves interviewing current and future farmers about their common needs and goals, and their common vision for the organization. Schmidt and his team also talk to solar producers to understand what they want from the organization.

The format the organization takes and what it offers is still determined. According to Schmidt, generally speaking, a PV business deals only with a single entity, not multiple farms. Therefore, the organization can be a kind of contact point between them and the shepherds. It can also help shepherds, among other things, in contract negotiations, marketing, planning, delivery, and logistics. However, it will take time to reach an agreement among the farmers.

“Consensus encourages participation,” Schmidt told Ars. “Consensus drives investment. Consensus raises interest in the project.”

Would you like them to be wool or not?

(The pun was completely intended for that time.)

Schmidt says New Dawn focuses on New York and the northeastern United States, but throughout the process, he and his team have tools, guides, and financial feasibility templates available to other groups wishing to get started. I added that I would develop such as. Similar organizations elsewhere. “After all, we want to be able to develop what industries, farms and developers can use. Not everyone needs to start from scratch,” he said.

Lexie Hain, co-founder of ASGA, said business co-operatives could establish biosecurity protocols. Mixing sheep from different farms can spread the disease, a problem that needs to be addressed. Organizations can also help negotiate cheaper insurance and consider shipping details.

According to Hein, solar grazing is still a young area, but farmers and solar operators are becoming more and more interested. ASGA was officially launched in 2019, but as of February last year, it has 246 members of various solar and sheep industry experts. “I have a lot of interest in it and I think there are many possibilities,” she told Ars. When it comes to solar farms, sheep are great groundsmen

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