Fencing and Equipment for Solar Grazing: What You Need to Get Started

By: Jess Gray · March 2, 2024 · 6 min

Implementing a successful solar grazing program requires specific considerations, especially regarding fencing and equipment. Safety, minimal impact on wildlife, and compatibility with solar infrastructure are paramount. Here’s a guide on what you need to get started based on our experience at Gray’s LAMBscaping and best practices in the industry.

Solar panels on electric polywire for sheepherding

Safety-First Fencing: Fiberglass Posts and Polywire

Safety is the cornerstone of adequate solar grazing. To ensure the protection of the solar panels and the animals, using fiberglass posts combined with 2-3 strands of polywire is recommended. This setup is non-conductive, eliminating risks associated with metal fencing components. The fiberglass posts can be safely inserted about 6 inches into the ground without the risk of damaging underground cables or the solar field itself.

Use Solar-Powered Chargers for Efficiency

We use solar chargers to energize the fencing, creating an efficient loop of solar-powered solutions. This provides a reliable containment system for the sheep and aligns with the sustainability goals of solar farms.

Avoid Netting to Protect Wildlife

The choice against using netting is twofold. Firstly, netting poses a risk to the grazing sheep and local wildlife, including deer and rabbits, which may become entangled. Secondly, metal components in netting are particularly hazardous near solar panels due to the risk of electrical interference or grounding issues.

Ground Scanning for Safe Installation

Before installation, we conduct a thorough ground scan to ensure that the chosen locations for the fence posts are free from underground cables or utilities. This precautionary step is crucial to prevent accidental damage or safety hazards.

Temporary Fencing with a Permanent Base

While we remove polywire when it’s not in use to prevent accidents, we keep the fiberglass posts in place. This approach reduces the environmental footprint and minimizes disturbance to the site. We install warning signs to indicate the presence of electric fencing, enhancing safety for both humans and animals.

Considerations for Paddock Placement

Designing the layout of the paddocks involves several considerations:

  • Terrain and Vegetation: We assess the grass density and available shade.
  • Solar Panel Layout: Ensure the fencing does not interfere with solar panels, lines, or maintenance pathways.
  • Existing Fencing: Internal chainlink permanent fences sometimes dictate paddock size and arrangements.
  • Access Needs: Incorporate gates and access points for easy entry and exit for maintenance staff, especially near roads or critical infrastructure like inverters.

On-Site Education and Training

To support the integration of sheep into solar sites, we provide comprehensive on-site education to anyone involved with site maintenance. This training covers proper interaction with the sheep, gate operation, and emergency protocols, ensuring a seamless integration of solar grazing practices.

Final Thoughts

Embracing solar grazing requires thoughtful planning and the right equipment. Solar farms can successfully harness the benefits of this sustainable land management practice by prioritizing safety, minimizing impact on wildlife, and ensuring the compatibility of fencing solutions with solar infrastructure. Whether you’re a solar farm operator or a farmer interested in solar grazing, understanding these essentials is the first step towards fostering a harmonious relationship between renewable energy and agriculture.

About Jess

Jess Gray is the CEO of Gray’s LAMBscaping, LLC, overseeing the company’s financial management, policy development, logistics, and reporting. As a 2023 Nuffield International Agricultural Scholar, Gray has represented her company in over half a dozen countries, focusing her research on integrating solar energy with livestock grazing.