Livestock grazing at solar farms: a win-win-win
Agrivoltaics, the combination of agriculture and solar photovoltaics on solar sites, is a key part of Lightsource bp’s work as long-term stewards of our projects. This innovative approach allows developed land to generate clean power and farm products simultaneously. For example, small livestock grazing and beekeeping are common at Lightsource bp solar sites around the world.
Working in partnership with grazing and ecology experts, Lightsource bp has introduced sheep grazing at Nittany 1, one of three solar sites providing power to Penn State University. A neighboring Amish farmer grazes almost 500 sheep among the solar panels, using a rotational system to feed his flock and maintain the land.
Lightsource bp, a member of the American Solar Grazing Association, is actively working to introduce solar grazing programs at several more projects in our U.S. portfolio. As we further integrate solar energy into the rural landscape, we believe our unique approach to responsible solar will provide a win-win-win for our environment, industry and rural communities.
Solar grazing cultivates biodiversity, healthier soil
Through solar grazing, livestock become natural partners in Lightsource bp’s commitment to nurture thriving ecosystems at project sites.
Healthy ecosystems are built from the ground up. As livestock digest vegetation, they spread manure, cycling nutrients, carbon and water back into the soil. As the herd forages from place to place, it “mows” back vegetation, pruning grasses and other plants. Rotational grazing—moving the herd around the site over time in contained “paddocks” — provides a healthy amount of disturbance with ample recovery time.
Grazing also promotes biodiversity, a greater variety of plant and animal species on the land. As they forage, sheep naturally combat invasive plant species and strengthen native populations. As they chomp on vegetation, the sheep introduce helpful bacteria and attract beneficial insects as well.
Our Pennsylvania solar grazing site will contribute soil samples and other data to several research projects studying the environmental impacts of sheep grazing on solar developments.
Dual land use increases efficiency
Sharing land through solar grazing provides necessary infrastructure for a low-carbon future while continuing agricultural productivity. In other words, agrivoltaic efforts tackle climate change while feeding the world.
At Nittany 1, our grazing partner moves the flock across nearly 120 acres during spring, summer and fall. The solar panels on site are suspended on posts, leaving land below shaded and accessible.
The farmer manages the flock to provide not only food and fiber for the community, but valuable maintenance services on site; the sheep essentially “mow the lawn” as they munch. Sheep are great at grazing underneath the panels and in hard-to-reach spots that are more difficult for humans to maintain.
Agrivoltaics strengthens rural economies
Our grazing partners can count on regular payments for their grazing services, provided through contracts with Lightsource bp’s Operations & Maintenance provider. This gives farmers a reliable source of new income, on top of what they earn via products they produce. Increased, diversified revenue and access to productive land may help a farm increase its resilience, or even grow.
After contracting with Lightsource bp, our Pennsylvania grazing partner expanded his flock. With more livestock, the family farm will be able to provide more fresh food and wool to the community. Veterinarians and other animal agriculture service providers in the community will see increased business as well.
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