Goats may be capturing the public’s attention for entertaining yogis, wearing pajamas or evading authorities. But in Arizona, their cousins the sheep are emerging as heroes in the quest for clean energy.
Solar farms need to keep their sun-harvesting panels free from vegetation. Instead of using a gas-powered mower to cut down grass, the Red Horse solar and wind project hire 200 sheep to keep its 1,300 acres shorn. This old-school, eco-friendly approach to landscape maintenance allows the farm to supply Tucson Electric Power with 71 megawatts of clean power a year — an amount that Tucson Electric says might be cut in half if the grass were to impede sunlight collection.
Why use sheep instead of goats? Because they’re pickier eaters. “They don’t eat wires, like goats,” says Rusty Coke, a rancher who leases his sheep to the solar field. Goats also tend to climb on panels and damage them, according to James Huff of Abakus Solar. Sheep, in contrast, stick to the vegetation they’ve been tasked with consuming, leaving the farm’s 250,000 solar panels untouched.
Another bonus, according to Solar Love: “Sheep are mild mannered and smell nice.”
You can learn more about these merry, merry munching machines here.