Sheering the lawn

Paul Dunham

When solar farms are invested in and ready to be built, they are primarily installed in empty fields. This is a perfect spot for the panels to directly receive sunlight. However, there are some problems for the panels that can arise from these fields. Vegetation in solar farms can become unruly and shade the panels around them or grow into the panels and it can be difficult to completely clean. This is the most expensive part of solar panel maintenance as the actual panel does not need as much attention. The most common way of managing solar farms ground cover is to use a lawnmower and herbicides around the area to cut and kill the grass and weeds of the fields. So while the gas guzzling machine spews toxic fumes into the air, someone sprays more harmful chemicals into the ground. This method is used all across the U.S. as people manicure their lawns with the bladed contraptions and bottles of chemicals. They work fine for small scale work when they are not used a lot and for long amounts of time, but for solar farms there should be a more sustainable and safer way to maintain the fields.

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In Tompkins County, New York a more effective and justifiable way has been discovered and implemented. They have started to use local farmers’ sheep to mow the grass in the solar farm. By using sheep rather than lawnmowers it builds a more productive and sustainable environment as sheep can fit under the solar panels and cut grass that the lawnmowers cannot reach, while emitting no harmful fumes or it with chemicals. This is beneficial to the solar farm as well as the local farming community as the lawn gets maintained properly while farmers are able to receive extra grazing land while also being provided power to their homes.

This method is both environmentally and economically conscious, since it is the least harmful way to cut the grass while also stimulating the local economy; it helps local farmers get extra money and grazing land. They are paid for their services at much cheaper costs than maintaining lawn mowers and chemicals. By using sheep, they reduce maintenance costs and carbon footprints. They fertilize the soil which creates a healthier ecosystem and removes the need for herbicides and mowing machines. The goal of using sheep in Tompkins County was to bring awareness and make it the standard and acceptable practice for all solar farm owners. Since it is so economically and environmentally sound this should be the method to maintain solar farms around the world. This will create the notion that having a solar farm is beneficial to the entire community.