Pasture Production and Lamb Growth in Agrivoltaic System
Grasslands and croplands located in temperate agro-ecologies are ranked to be the best places to install solar panels for maximum energy production. Therefore, agrivoltaic systems (agricultural production under solar panels) are designed to mutually benefit solar energy and agricultural production in the same location for dual-use of land. However, both livestock farmers and energy companies require information for the application of efficient livestock management practices under solar panels. Therefore, this study was conducted to compare lamb growth and pasture production under solar panels and in open pastures in Corvallis, Oregon in spring 2019 and 2020. Averaged across the grazing periods, weaned Polypay lambs grew at 120 and 119 g/head/d under solar panels and open pastures, respectively in spring 2019 (P=0.90). Although a higher stocking density (36.6 lambs/ha) at the pastures under solar panels was maintained than open pastures (30 lambs/ha) in the late spring period, the liveweight production between grazing under solar panels (1.5 kg ha/d) and open pastures (1.3 kg ha/d) were comparable (P=0.67). Similarly, lambs liveweight gains and liveweight productions were comparable in both pasture types (all P>0.05). The daily water consumption of the lambs in spring 2019 were similar during early spring, but lambs in open pastures consumed 0.72 l/head/d more water than those grazed under solar panels in the late spring period (P<0.01). However, no difference was observed in water intake of the lambs in spring 2020 (P=0.42) The preliminary results from our grazing study indicated that grazing under solar panels can maintain higher carrying capacity of pasture toward summer, and land productivity could be increased up to 200% through combining sheep grazing and solar energy production on the same land. More importantly, solar panels may provide a more animal welfare friendly environment for the grazing livestock as they provide shelter from sun and wind.