Got Sheep? Want A Solar Farm?

Sheep graze between rows of solar panels.

Sometimes, a flock of sheep is better than a lawn mower.

Many solar energy companies have started leasing land from farmers to build solar farms – and hiring sheep (or, more specifically, leasing flocks from farmers) to control ground cover around their parallel rows of low-slung solar panels while paying the farmer for use of the land.

Current and prospective sheep farmers learned more at the September 17 Sheep Grazier’s Workshop from CALS’ Amazing Grazing Pasture-Based Livestock Education Program at the Beef Education Unit. Part of the session detailed pros, cons and how-tos of teaming with solar energy companies.

The trend has been a revitalizing force in the North Carolina sheep industry, Rogers said, because the ruminants are the only grazers who play well with solar panels. Cows are too tall. So are riding mowers. Goats climb. Sheep are the one domesticated grazer who can take care of business without damaging the goods.

“It’s neat, because we’re harvesting solar energy in two ways: through the panels, and through the grass that turns into food for the sheep,” said sheep farmer and N.C. Cooperative Extension Service associate Johnny Rogers, who co-leases land and flock to Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar.

“They don’t want to be in the sheep business,” Rogers said. “And luckily, we had sheep anyway.”

To learn more, contact Rogers at jrroger3@ncsu.edu

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