Tompkins Solar Farm Stays Mowed Thanks To Sheep

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – There’s a new solar project in Tompkins County that has farmers and solar companies helping each other.

Drive over a hill on a two-lane road in Newfield and dozens of solar arrays come into view. The community solar farm occupies about thirty acres of what used to be a hay field.

Now until the end of fall, you might also catch a glimpse of sheep in among the arrays.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Farmer Lexie Hain with some of her sheep at a Newfield solar farm. The sheep graze the field which saves the solar company landscaping costs and carbon emissions.

The sheep are environmentally-friendly mowers. They’re cheap, too. “It reduces the emissions of running gasoline engines on lawn mowers, weed whackers coming in here a couple times a season,” said Keith Hevenor, Director of Communications for Nexamp, the company that owns the Newfield solar farm.

This is the first year that sheep are grazing at this solar farm.

“This is basically an opportunity for people in rural areas who are already livestock producers to step up and make a partnership with the energy industry and get paid to graze,” said sheep farmer Lexie Hain, adding that eventually there will be about 100 sheep at the Newfield site. She thinks solar grazing can help farmers reduce their expenses.

Hain said grazing among solar panels has advantages for the sheep, too. When it gets too hot the sheep just move into the shade behind the panels. There’s even a creek running through this field if they want water.