If you think about it, the "recipe" for perfect pastures is similar to that for perfect solar farms. It needs a lot of flat space, low vegetation and a good solar display. Will this be what pushes farmers to rent their agricultural land to put us on large expanses of photovoltaic panels?
Increased solar production has great environmental benefits, but can lead to lower agricultural production. We need to find a way to combine things, and for Todd Schmit, associate professor at Cornell University, this translates into one word: “sheep”.
Collaboration between solar energy producers and farmers is still a "young" sector. In summary, solar producers pay farmers to bring sheep to their land, and sheep eat weeds and other plants that could interfere with the performance of solar panels.
Win win, don't you think?
Sheep are fed, farmers are paid, and solar producers manage their vegetation without using chemical mowers and weeders. or robotic.
But why the sheep?
The reasons are purely practical in nature. First of all, sheep are shorter than cows and horses. They are also more versatile in taste, and eat most types of forage. Compared to goats, however, sheep do not have the "vice" of chewing anything, including the wires of the plants.
Basically sheep are perfect, guys. And investors have noticed it too. It is no coincidence that Schmit himself received $ 500.000 in funding in three years. The money serves to expand the practice of "solar sheep" with a project called "A New Dawn for Shepherds: Grazing Sheep Under Utility-Scale Solar Arrays".
A new dawn for shepherds
Schmit is collaborating with various breeders, solar professionals and ASGA, a non-profit organization that connects sheep farmers with solar energy producers. Together, they will determine what form the project will take and what it will offer farmers hoping to expand their sheep production on solar farms.
The organization could be a sort of contact point between producers and shepherds. It could also help pastors with contract negotiations, marketing, planning, deliveries, and logistics, among other things.
A model to follow
Schmit believes that while New Dawn focuses more on the American Northeast, he and his team will develop tools, guides, financial viability models, for use elsewhere as well. “Ultimately, we want to be able to develop things that industries, farms and developers can use. Not everyone will have to start from scratch, ”he said.
The co-founder of ASGA Lexie Hain he said his business co-operative could take care of establishing biosecurity protocols. If sheep from different farms mix, they could potentially spread disease, a problem to be prevented.