As solar projects across the nation continue to expand, solar grazing has emerged as a valuable tool, according to a new fact sheet recently released by the Center for Rural Affairs.
“Using livestock to manage vegetation at solar sites can enhance site value by keeping land in agricultural use, providing new income streams for local farmers, and adding environmental benefits such as decreased erosion and enhanced soil health,” said Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher, senior policy associate for the Center.
Solar grazing is the use of livestock, usually sheep, to manage vegetation at solar sites. It takes the place of traditional mowing, offering numerous environmental and financial benefits and meeting clean energy and agricultural goals simultaneously. Solar grazing is considered a form of agrivoltaics, which is a term used to describe combining agriculture with renewable energy. Other types of agrivoltaics include producing hay, berries, vegetables, and honey at solar sites.
Making the Case for Solar Grazing addresses the economics and environmental benefits of solar grazing, offers steps for the planning process, what developers and farmers should consider when developing a contract, the appropriate seed mixes to consider, and recommendations to policymakers that incentivize beneficial practices.
Kolbeck-Urlacher said for project developers, contracting with local farmers to use solar grazing as a management tool can reduce operations and maintenance costs.
Including solar grazing as a goal in the beginning stages of project planning will allow developers to tailor sites for optimal grazing management. Solar grazing is most successful when deployed as part of a strategic, rotational grazing plan. Successful initial steps include:
- Goal setting
- Determine site conditions
- Select livestock species and determine population
- Establish a robust rotational grazing and vegetation management plan for the site
“Including solar grazing as a goal in the beginning stages of project planning will allow developers to tailor sites for optimal grazing management,” she said. “Solar grazing is most successful when deployed as part of a strategic, rotational grazing plan.”