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Ohio Embraces Sheep for Solar Farm Upkeep
Ohio Ag Connection - 12/01/2023

In Ohio, a novel approach is revolutionizing the maintenance of utility-scale solar farms. Traditionally, upkeep of these vast solar arrays has been challenging, with mowers struggling to maneuver around the panels and emitting carbon emissions that contradict the sustainability goals of solar power. The Ohio Power Siting Board's recent approval of over two dozen solar farms has prompted a creative solution to this issue.

Enter the concept of solar grazing, a practice where sheep are employed to graze the land around solar panels. This method not only addresses the vegetation management problem in an eco-friendly way but also aligns perfectly with the ethos of renewable energy. Unlike conventional mowing, solar grazing eliminates the need for gas-powered equipment, significantly reducing carbon emissions.

But the benefits of solar grazing extend beyond just environmental conservation. For Ohio's livestock farmers, particularly those raising sheep, this practice offers a lifeline. With the soaring costs of land – averaging over $8,000 per acre in Ohio – and the challenges faced by new and minority farmers, solar grazing provides a unique opportunity for expansion. It represents a dual-purpose use of land, where energy production and food source generation coexist harmoniously.

This innovative approach also has the potential to invigorate the lamb market in the Midwest. While currently not as prominent as other livestock markets, early adopters of solar grazing hope for increased investment and demand in the lamb sector as the practice gains popularity.

Solar grazing is part of a larger movement known as agrivoltaics, which combines agriculture and photovoltaic solar energy production. While the integration of crop production under solar panels is still a developing area of research, the practice of solar grazing has proven to be a more straightforward and familiar process for farmers.

The future of agrivoltaics, particularly solar grazing, appears promising. As research continues, particularly at institutions like Ohio State University, this sustainable practice could pave the way for a new era in farming and renewable energy, benefiting both the environment and the farming community.

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