Baaa! I work in vegetation management services
Sheep keep solar farms tidy — and their owners get free grass.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Agrivoltaics. Now, there’s a noun to conjure with. Turns out it means the co-location of solar panels and agriculture, such as sheep grazing underneath while the sun’s rays are turned into power overhead.
It’s a win-win situation. The sheep are fed while the solar operator doesn’t have to keep grass and weeds at bay. Meanwhile, wildlife such as bees and butterflies are encouraged by the pesticide-free environment.
One example, reports PV Magazine, comes from the AgriSolar Clearinghouse, a networking organization that connects farmers, landowners and solar developers about agrivoltaics, which produced a case study of about the 23.4 MW Arnprior solar project near Ottawa, Canada, developed by France’s EDF Renewables (EDFR). The project sits on 180 acres of land and can meet the peak energy demand of about 7,000 homes.
With declining bee populations leading to international alarm, EDFR reached out to a local honey company to install hives at the site, which now produce more than 300 jars of the sweet stuff each year. Soon after that, the bees were joined by sheep, with the local Shady Creek Lamb Company bringing 50 ewes to snack on the vegetation. In addition to keeping the site tidy, the array site proved beneficial to the farmers by providing an area for the flock to expand without having to rent or buy additional land. The arrangement, which has now been expanded to 500 sheep, also provided farmers with money for the sheep’s “vegetation management services.”
In other rural renewables news, it turns out — contrary to a long-standing opposition talking point warning homeowners that wind farms depress property values — that installing wind turbines in a communities leads “to economically meaningful increases in county GDP per-capita, income per-capita, median household income, and median home values.”
The study, published in the journal Energy Policy, analyzed nearly 3,000 counties and found that in the counties with wind energy the average per-capita income increase was 5%, home values were boosted 2.6%, and the per-capita GDP increase was 6.5% greater than the growth in counties that didn't install new turbines. This is particularly good news for rural areas, which have seen considerable population declines, with the researchers noting that wind farms can provide jobs to those building and maintaining the turbines, as well as income to local landowners and greater demand for local goods and services. Also a factor: an increase in property taxes being paid as a result of these installations leads to benefits such as increased school spending.