Solar shepherd is a real job, and could help save solar farms money

There’s a growing trend with solar farms, and it could save ewe some money.

Key Points

  • Vegetation management is a major expense for solar farms.
  • Instead of paying someone to mow the grass, many solar farms are recruiting sheep to do the job.
  • This helps lower costs for energy companies, and helps farmers earn new income. 

My five-year-old wants to be a mommy/accountant/ballerina/civil engineer/deli worker when she grows up. Lean in, girl. Lean. In.

While her list of career aspirations is growing, I might introduce her to a new job gaining in popularity: the solar shepherd.

Yep, there’s a growing trend with solar farms, and it could save ewe some money (sorry, I had to).

Keeping the grass, weeds and other vegetation cut around solar farms is a major operating expense for solar energy producers. If vegetation gets out of control, it could twist around the solar panel wiring, or simply get so tall that it blocks the sun and hinders solar energy output.

Traditional mowers have usually done the job, but an alternative is becoming more popular – sheep.

Many solar farms just happen to be in rural areas where farmers already live and work. And having a local farmer graze sheep around the solar panels is a win-win. The farmers get a place to graze their sheep and make some extra income, and the energy producers save on vegetation management costs.

According to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, in North Carolina – the nation’s second largest solar energy producer behind California – a company called Sun Raised Farms has contracted with energy producers throughout the state to maintain solar farms including using grazing to help keep the vegetation in check and only mow when grazing isn’t an option.

Solar shepherds are becoming so popular that North Carolina State University hosts solar shepherding ag seminars, and is now considering creating an entire academic program focused on sheep grazing solar farms.

I’ll see if my daughter wants to add solar shepherd to her list. And down the road, if you happen to need a talented dancer who can also do your taxes, design a bridge and make you a sandwich with kids and sheep in tow, I know just the gal.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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