The world is seeing a pleasing rise in renewable energy solutions. However, as more solar facilities are set up, operational obstacles present themselves. The rapid expansion in renewable energy is not all good, as Nick Armentrout of the American Solar Grazing Association explained in a recent presentation. Of course, it is a great thing that renewable sources are growing in number, but the speed of this growth presents a number of inevitable problems. International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) explains one of these problems, as identified by Armentrout, as well as the innovative solution he recommends.

Vegetation Management For Solar Facilities

Solar farms make substantial use of vegetation to protect the watershed. However, this vegetation needs to be managed. If it is not it can get out of control and grow too wild. If this happens, the vegetation can shade PV modules, thus interfering with production. It can also cause fire hazards.

It is, therefore, essential to manage all vegetation at solar facilities. Hiring landscaping and gardening services is one way to do this, but there is actually a more elegant, and more environmentally friendly solution.

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How Sheep Can Help

Armentrout says that sheep offer the perfect solution for vegetation management. They are excellent at keeping brush and grasses from shading PV modules, he says. They can reduce fire hazards and keep the site clean and orderly. They can help to maintain agricultural land in conjunction with power generation and can minimize the carbon footprint associated with vegetation control. What is more, the introduction of sheep can lower operational and maintenance costs from 30% to 80% compared to traditional mowing and associated damages.

Armentrout argues that sheep are essential if project and energy costs are to remain low during the transition to home grown renewable energy. To put it simply, the renewable energy industry needs sheep! This idea leads to what Armentrout describes as solar grazing – a form of prescribed or managed grazing that uses the animal impact as a strategy to manage vegetation for improved soil stability, health and the function of solar arrays. The sheep and wool industry, and the renewables industry can form a productive partnership in this way – one that would benefit both of them, as well as consumers and the environment. “Land is precious and agricultural land even more so,” says Armentrout. “Sheep and wool can help to maximize the positive outcomes – it’s about more good, not less bad.”

Learn All You Need to Know About the International Wool Industry

You can find some extremely interesting and informative videos on the IWTO Youtube page here. For more information on the wool industry around the world, take a look at our fact sheets, statistics and guidelines.

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