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Morris Ridge Solar Project: Agricultural Integration Plan: Managed Sheep Grazing and Beekeeping

The Morris Ridge Solar Project is a proposed solar farm on approximately 1,060 acres in the Town of Mount Morris, southern Livingston County, New York. The project site is within an area farmed primarily in a cash cropping rotation. The Morris Ridge Solar project is being designed to integrate agricultural uses, including a managed grazing system that utilizes sheep grazing to control vegetation growth under and around the solar panels. Sheep grazing is a method of vegetation control used on solar facilities around the world and is increasingly being used in the Northeastern United States to provide a solution that can promote and incorporate an agricultural use within a solar photovoltaic facility. The Morris Ridge Solar project is also being planned to accommodate honeybees and honey production. Through the incorporation of pollinator-friendly vegetation into the project design, solar farms can create suitable habitat for honeybees. Co-locating honeybee apiaries and solar farms has been proven to be a successful method of integrating agricultural use at solar farms throughout North America. The Morris Ridge Solar project will seek to contract the grazing through local farmers who either currently own sheep or wish to expand sheep enterprises as part of their farm business. To engage with these farmers and determine which candidates are best fit for the contracted grazing, MRSEC and AVS have worked to conduct outreach locally and assess interest from the farm community. Initial interest has been solid, with several area farmers expressing interest in contract grazing either parts of the site or the entire site. The solar site will be seeded with a seed mix designed for the special circumstances of the site: grazing, honey production, low-growing, shade and sun tolerant. The seed mix will be selected based on soil testing results, which is scheduled for fall 2020. The seed mix will be something akin to Ernst Conservation Seed’s Fuzz & Buzz Mix. A mix of pasture grasses, legumes (all flowering plants), and forbs (more flowers), it is a diverse and robust blend designed to balance the needs of agrivoltaic production. The seed mix is integral to the vegetation management plan. The vegetation management is planned to support perennial pastures that nearly always have flowering plants. This perennial rotation of the sheep keeps vegetation in sequence of rest and grazing. This sequence is cyclical, and the structure allows the legumes and forbs time to flower from May to October. With the planned rotation of the sheep, the availability of nectar from flowering plants across a large area that are stimulated to bloom consistently throughout the season should allow the bees to thrive. EDF-Renewables has taken care to strategically plan for a high level of agricultural integration at the Morris Ridge Solar Facility. The solar facility is proposed to create a new opportunity for a livestock grazier and a commercial honey producer in the region. Over the rest of 2020, AVS and EDF-Renewables will work to find the right farm partners to facilitate the plans identified above. The construction plans will be fine-tuned with a grazing operation in mind. The future site graziers will have several years to bring their livestock operations up to speed in harmony with the construction schedule. Our team looks forward to project success that incorporates and strengthens the regional agricultural community in the Morris Ridge Solar Project.