SUSSEX COUNTY, Va. — Solar energy is increasing in popularity and big companies like Dominion Energy are getting in on the action.
Getting more solar farms can be seen as a great way to create renewable energy, but some worry it's taking over usable agricultural land.
Dominion Energy is combating that idea with an alternative way of keeping things green.
“We're here to manage the vegetation,” said Marcus Gray from Gray’s Lambscaping.
Farmer Marcus Gray showed us how his sheep “lambscape” more than 200 acres at Dominion’s Sussex Drive solar farm.
“One of the needs that the solar industry has is to maintain the plants that grow in and around the arrays," Gray said. "So rather than burning fuel with mowers, we use sheep to eat the vegetation.”
As part of Dominion’s solar grazing program, these sheep clean up more than 40 acres a day across five of their solar farms.
“We are trying to get creative and innovative in ways in vegetation management,” said Dominion Energy spokesperson Tim Eberly.
It’s more environmentally friendly, too, because it saves emissions generated by lawn mowing equipment.
All the sheep keep it green while eating the green.
“Grass-fed animals produce fewer emissions than, say, grain-based systems,” said Gray. “So, it's actually better to have the sheep out here on the land, making use of it, and concentrating that carbon back into the soil.”
The digested grass and manure also help improve water filtration from rain, which provides a cooling aspect for more than 80,000 solar panels, which in turn, also makes them more efficient.
This makes it prime real estate for future agricultural needs.
"So, we're reducing emissions, we're stacking carbon into the soil," Gray said. "And we're stacking the economic and ecological benefits as well.”
Sheep are the preferred livestock to have at these solar farms because they’re nimble and can easily get under the panels.
These solar farms are just one step Dominion Energy is taking toward a cleaner, carbon-free future.
The Sussex location generates more than 20 megawatts per day, which is enough to power 5,000 homes.
“The company has been marching toward an emission-free future and solar power,” said Eberly. “Solar energy is a big part of that. The sheep are a great addition to this because they're both very environmentally-friendly and sustainable and green.”