national networkThe electric, natural gas and clean energy distribution company serving New York and Massachusetts recently launched its first solar grazing pilot project at two company-owned solar facilities in Attleboro, Mass.
Pilot – in cooperation Solar ShepherdThe company, founded by a third-generation cattle rancher in Massachusetts—combines renewable energy and agriculture by bringing sheep to graze on abundant grass that grows around ground-mounted solar panels, providing a sustainable form of vegetation management.
The practice of harnessing grazing animals as natural landholders is a variation of agrivoltaic, which the US Department of Agriculture describes as the use of land for both agriculture and solar energy production. The pilot started in May 2023, and the goal is to replace traditional green construction with a cleaner solution. It also adds purpose to large-scale solar sites by supporting agricultural production and local Massachusetts ranchers as they adapt and grow their businesses.
“Sheep grazing reduces the need for herbicides, pesticides and gas-powered lawnmowers, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions and noise pollution at solar sites and the surrounding community,” says Arnaldo Arnal, lead product developer at National Grid. “Over time, the sheep’s natural manure can increase soil biodiversity and improve carbon sequestration on the company’s lands.”
National Grid currently owns and operates 30 solar facilities in Massachusetts, including solar grazing sites in Attleboro, consisting of a total of 5,000 panels covering 10 acres of land. Both grazing areas feed a total of 1,600 kW of power into the grid, which eases the load on the nearby substation during summer peaks. National Grid plans to bring grazing sheep to other sites as its solar portfolio expands.
Photo by Vincent Delsuc is Pexels.