One of the most important aspects of managing a solar farm is maintaining the solar panels that produce the energy going to homes. Part of that maintenance is controlling ground cover and vegetation that grows throughout the parallel rows of low-slung solar panels, much like the panels at OCI Solar Power’s Alamo 2 solar farm located on the northeast side in Converse. On April 2, a whole heap of 200 sheep were released onto the grounds to keep the grass trimmed around and under the panels, meaning no gas-powered mowers rumbling across the 45-acre site. Check out the the sheep being released onto the grounds here.
Sheep and solar farms are a match made in heaven in some ways. Cows are too tall, and goats get all climb happy, making sheep the best environmentally conscious option to getting the job done while protecting the equipment. It’s a win-win as the San Antonio sun provides power to the solar panels, in addition to helping produce plenty of grass for the sheep to enjoy.
“It sounds a little strange, funny even, but we are once again going to put sheep to work for us as part of our landscaping plan,” said Robby Barriga, Supervisor of Operations & Asset Management for OCI Solar Power. “Having them graze in our solar field is an extremely effective and affordable way to control vegetation.”
OCI Solar Power has employed sheep before, first in 2014 and again in 2016. This time around, adult and baby Katahdin sheep, also known as “hair sheep,” will be used to graze on the 45-acre field for two weeks. They will move to another site then return every 30 days.
“This is the perfect combination. Alamo 2 provides the perfect environment for these low-maintenance sheep,” said Ely Valdez, owner of EVA Ranch which is providing the sheep. “They will have food, shelter, shade, and water; the size of the field is just right; and the native grass is exactly what they like to eat.”
A fence around the solar farm will help contain the sheep, and to help protect them, EVA Ranch is also going to drop off two emus. Although unusual, emus are considered guard animals because they can grow up to 6-feet tall, run up to 31 miles per hour, and kick with their three-toed feet if threatened.
In 2012, CPS Energy signed a first-of-its-kind purchase power and economic development agreement with OCI Solar Power to build 400 MW of solar power while creating 800 jobs and an economic impact of $700 million. As part of CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy, the partnership has truly blossomed. Since then, nine solar farms and 650 MW of new sun power have been created and put into commercial operation.