Sheep grazing
(Photo credit: Jonathan Hutchins / cc-by-sa/2.0)

As the demand for solar energy grows, solar farms are cropping up across America’s rural landscapes.

And Charles Gould, an energy educator with Michigan State University Extension, says they can complement more traditional uses of land.

“One of the things that we are really trying to encourage is raising livestock – especially sheep – underneath those solar arrays,” he says.

He says it’s a win-win for sheep and solar developers. The panels themselves create shade that can keep the sheep cool on hot summer days, and the grazing animals eat the vegetation – reducing the need to mow.

Gould says farmers can also consider using the land underneath solar panels to create a pollinator garden.

“There’s actually a wide variety of plants that we can put in that will support pollinating insects that are low-growing, deep-rooted, hold the soil in place, are nice to look at,” he says.

He says that if located near an orchard or blueberry field, these gardens can help attract the insects needed to pollinate those crops.

So Gould says there’s no need to choose between growing food and growing solar. Well-managed land can do both.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Energy