Our project will examine the economic feasibility and environmental benefits of co-locating sheep on photovoltaic utility solar sites in Minnesota. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Cannon Valley Graziers will be entering a vegetation management contract on a 25-acre solar site in Dundas, Minnesota. There, we will use rotational grazing practices to provide an alternative to conventional vegetation management. During the time of this grant, we will be working as members of the American Solar Grazing Association to assist in developing best practices for sheep producers and solar developers in the upper Midwest.
Initial grazing plans will be revised throughout the grant based on findings to reflect best practices. Environmental benefits will be measured with scheduled soil samples and infiltration tests, and observational records will be kept. To measure the economic viability of solar grazing in our region, we will demonstrate monthly cash flow records, analyze return on assets (ROI), and evaluate the feasibility of solar grazing as a new/expanded enterprise with actual and projected income statements. Throughout the duration of the grant, we will share our findings and experience with sheep producers, solar developers, soil conservation districts, advocacy organizations, and Minnesota state and local agencies.
Project objectives from proposal:
Short term (23 months):
- Evaluate the economic and ecological effectiveness of replacing conventional solar site management (mechanical mowers/trimmers) with rotationally grazed sheep in the upper midwest.
- Prototype and improve fence and water systems, stocking rates, and flock management for efficient solar/sheep co-location.
- Develop and improve grazing plan specific to solar grazing in the region including; pasture mix and
- Share results with other farmers/ranchers at field days and
Long term (Beyond grant):
- Develop baseline data and basis for future research collaborations (educational institutions and/or non-profits, government).
- Impact policy for co-location of agriculture and solar energy in Minnesota.