Next year, returning from your sun-filled summer vacation up I-75, you might pass a view that makes you scratch your head: a herd of sheep grazing amongst a field of solar panels. That’s not your average road trip scenery. Before you do a double-take, what you’ve just passed is a glimpse at one of the most innovative and beneficial land management practices to make its way across the solar energy industry.
So what do grazing livestock and solar panels have in common? More than you think. Georgia’s EMCs are driving solar power growth across the state, but it’s not just clean energy they’re developing. By 2022, nearly all of their large-scale solar projects and some of the smaller ones will merge clean energy generation with regenerative agriculture. What does that mean? Holistic land management of solar farms, such as planned sheep grazing, with herds residing part-time at the solar sites to graze beneath the solar panels. As sheep bite off the tops of plants, keeping vegetation from shading the solar panels, they fertilize the soil, causing more plants to grow. This agricultural practice is designed to improve soil health, sequester carbon, and boost water quality on land used for solar power generation.
Green Power EMC, the renewable energy provider for 38 Georgia EMCs, has partnered with solar developer Silicon Ranch to implement their Regenerative Energy® model at many large-scale Georgia solar farms. One of those sites will be the Perry Solar Farm located in Houston County and visible from I-75. Expected to be complete by year-end, the solar site will generate 68 megawatts of clean, renewable energy while simultaneously serving as a part-time home to holistically-managed grazing livestock.
Another important benefit of combining regenerative agriculture with solar energy practices is economic revitalization. This approach generates new long-term revenue opportunities for farmers and the local communities and supports important agricultural jobs. Additionally, more than 300 local workers were hired to construct the Perry Solar Farm and the site will contribute significant on-going tax revenue to Houston County that will benefit the local government and school systems.
“Thirty Georgia EMCs have supported the Perry solar project, which will produce enough clean, renewable energy to help power more than 11,000 EMC households,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “We’re proud that in addition to providing our members with reliable and affordable solar energy, our implementation of combined regenerative and solar energy practices will benefit the people, land, environment and local economy in Houston County.”
Photo: Sheep graze in the shade of solar panels at the Bancroft Station Solar Farm in Early County. Silicon Ranch constructed the solar farm and operates it on behalf of Walton EMC.