Why Are Sheep The Best Grazers for Solar Farms?

By: Jess Gray · Feb. 2, 2024 · 3 min

For several reasons, sheep stand out as the top choice for solar grazing projects. Their unique grazing behavior, size, and temperament make them particularly suited for this innovative practice.

Solar grazing, Gray's LAMBscaping sheep grazing a solar farm in Virginia

Sheep Have Ideal Grazing Behaviors

Sheep are known for their selective grazing habits, preferring broadleaf weeds and grasses, which are common around solar panel installations. Goats are notorious climbers and could potentially jump on and damage panels. Large and heavy cattle could compact the soil and damage solar infrastructure. Sheep, by contrast, gently graze around solar arrays. Their ability to navigate through tight spaces without disturbing the solar panel setup makes them the perfect candidates for maintaining vegetation without risking damage to the equipment.

They Are Small and Manageable

The relatively small size of sheep compared to other livestock like cattle means they exert less pressure on the ground, reducing soil compaction around the sensitive areas of solar panel installations. This aspect is crucial for maintaining soil health and ensuring that rainwater infiltrates the ground effectively rather than running off and potentially causing erosion. Additionally, sheep are easier to manage and move around, allowing for more efficient rotational grazing practices that evenly distribute grazing pressure and promote vegetation recovery.

Sheep Don’t Pose Risks to Solar Panels

Sheep pose a minimal risk to solar panels and their associated infrastructure. Their height and lack of interest in chewing on cables or climbing on structures ensure that the panels remain intact and operational. This low-risk profile makes sheep attractive for solar farm operators who want to integrate livestock grazing without jeopardizing their energy production assets.

Environmental and Economic Benefits

Integrating sheep into solar grazing projects offers significant environmental benefits, including enhanced biodiversity, soil preservation, and a reduction in the use of chemical herbicides and mechanical mowing. From an economic perspective, sheep provide a cost-effective solution to vegetation management and add value through wool production, meat, and potentially dairy products, offering multiple revenue streams for farmers.

Sheep Are Compatible with Renewable Energy Goals

Utilizing sheep for solar grazing aligns with the broader goals of renewable energy projects, including sustainability and environmental stewardship. Sheep grazing helps maintain the land in a natural and eco-friendly manner, supporting the solar energy sector’s commitment to minimizing its ecological footprint and promoting sustainable land use practices.

The Benefits of Multispecies Grazing

Sheep flocks offer an unparalleled blend of benefits for solar grazing projects. Their suitability stems from their grazing habits, manageable size, and low risk to solar installations. At Gray’s LAMBscaping, we also have a small herd of Dexter cattle, a smaller and lighter breed that are generally better foragers than beef cattle. Our cows are trained on polywire, allowing us to manage their grazing area effectively. Cattle grazing creates microhabitats by opening up dense vegetation, allowing light to reach the ground, and encouraging the growth of various flowering plants beneficial to pollinators. Solar farms may also benefit from chickens and other approved animals, which holistically help manage vegetation while promoting soil health and biodiversity.

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.