Recent research conducted on a Minnesota agrisolar operation showed that grazing sheep at ground-mounted solar projects improves the health and quality of the soil and that consecutive annual grazing treatments to land under solar panels realized more benefits than intermittently grazed land.
The MNL Conservation Grazing Program’s flock of sheep has been grazing under the solar panels of Enel’s 150 MWdc Aurora Solar operation since 2017. The research studied the impacts of sheep grazing on six separate solar PV sites compared to undisturbed control sites.
Soil samples taken in 2020 from six locations were compared to soil samples taken in 2021, revealing a variety of benefits in soil health related to micro and macro nutrients and soil grain size distribution. Managed sheep grazing significantly increased the total carbon storage (10 to 80%) and available nutrients of the soil.
MNL’s solar grazing manger stated that,” More solar means more opportunities for new farmers to get started in the industry. We consult with solar projects throughout the Midwest and the concept of grazing sheep on a solar projects opens the door for new shepherds who may lack easy access to grazing land to get started,” according to a media report by Solar Power World.
The research was made possible through the partnership of MNL, Enel Energy, Temple University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which also highlighted other potential benefits aside from things like macro and micronutrients in the soil, such as water quality, stormwater control, and healthy pollinator habitat.
Read more about the research here.