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Bees, sheep, crops: Solar developers tout multiple benefits | Agriculture

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Buzz and fuzz

At Cascadilla Community Solar Farm in upstate New York, sheep munch grasses amongst photo voltaic panels whereas bees and butterflies gather pollen from native flowers.

Cornell University researcher Niko Kochendoerfer says preliminary knowledge from her three-year examine exhibits gentle grazing produces plentiful bees and wildflowers, whereas holding vegetation from shading panels. Some uncommon bee species are turning up.

Farmers get $300 to $550 per acre yearly to graze sheep at photo voltaic websites, growing farm revenue whereas sparing them the price of renting or shopping for pasture, mentioned Kochendoerfer, who owns about 400 sheep along with her fiance, Lewis Fox. Grazing is cheaper than conventional web site administration, she mentioned.

Fox has sheep at photo voltaic websites from southern Pennsylvania to Vermont.

“Certain instances of the 12 months … the websites shall be like a butterfly home in a zoo — there’s simply butterflies all over the place,” he mentioned.

Sheep are feeding at photo voltaic installations in additional than 20 states, mentioned Lexie Hain, director of the American Solar Grazing Association and Fox’s enterprise associate. It’s additionally occurring within the United Kingdom, different elements of Europe, Uruguay and Australia.

Vegetables in photo voltaic shade

In Longmont, Colorado, Jack’s Solar Farm affords one other instance of photo voltaic assembly agriculture. Instead of wheat and hay as earlier than, the farm’s 24 acres host 3,276 panels, producing sufficient energy for about 300 houses. Beneath them develop tomatoes, squash, kale and inexperienced beans.