Grazing sheep offer eco-friendly solution at Plattsburgh solar farm

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - A new solar farm in the Town of Plattsburgh is taking “going green” to a whole new level with its sustainable landscaping crew.

Tucked away on the back of the J&R Pierce Family Farm is the new Plattsburgh solar site.

“The panels provide electricity to about 480 customers around New York state,” said the farm’s Rebekah Pierce.

The solar array sits on 23 acres with a strict grass height limit. “The main goal here is we don’t want the grass or any vegetation growing above the panels blocking sunlight, basically a loss of power,” said the farm’s Josh Pierce. He says it would take a lot of effort to cut and trim all that vegetation. “Underneath the panels -- the grass also grows up there -- that’s the challenge of getting a mower in.”

But Pierces knew a crew who was up for the challenge. “The benefits of the sheep are the sheep fit underneath the panels and they harvest all the grass,” Josh said.

Their 75 sheep live at the solar farm from May until October. Their job is to graze the grass and weeds to make sure the solar panels are clear to soak in the sun. “A lot of this is great forage. It’s a mix of orchard grass and alfalfa, which is like candy for them,” Josh explained.

The Pierces check in every couple of days to make sure the sheep aren’t slacking at their day job and to move them to a new section to make sure every corner of the farm is tended to. “To make sure we get a full mow, and then they’ll move, usually every two to three days to another section,” Josh said. He says the sheep are benefiting from the endless amount of grass while also keeping agriculture on the farm. “We’re sustainably harvesting that grass and putting it into a secondary farm product.”

At the end of the season, the flock is culled and the meat is sold to local restaurants. “It’s very much full circle and it’s a great way to kind of have the best of everything -- farming and renewable energy,” Rebekah said.

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