Up to 200 sheep will be grazing at Oberlin College’s 2.7 megawatt (MW) solar farm this summer, ending the need for mowing – and creating a lot of other wins as well.
Oberlin College’s ground crew have complained about how difficult and expensive it was to maintain the field upon which the 13-year-old solar farm sits. So the college’s campus energy and resource manager, Joel Baetens, decided to try agrivoltaics – pairing solar power with agriculture – by bringing in sheep to graze and aerate the grass growing around the solar farm.
On May 24, around 70 sheep were delivered from a farm to Oberlin’s fenced-in, 10-acre solar farm north of the campus. Two border collies helped to settle the first delivery of sheep in at their temporary home, and the sheep will be brought to Oberlin’s solar farm a couple times in the summer to graze. More sheep drops will soon up the numbers to around 200.
Solar and sheep are a great pair: Solar panels provide shade and shelter for the sheep, and the sheep trim the grass – and eat for free. Plus, the shade the panels create reduces heat and light underneath, thus helping to conserve water.
The cost of the sheep is just a fraction of the $30,000 it would cost to mow Oberlin’s solar farm, and they’ll reduce the carbon impact of maintaining the solar fields.
Baetens told the Chronicle-Telegram:
So we’re paying them just like we’d pay a lawnmowing service. The deal is they’ve got to get the grass down to a certain amount and keep it there.
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Photo: Erich Burnett/Oberlin College
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