Ewes' chews keep solar farm in tip-top shape

Caleb Scott

Do androids dream of electric sheep? Maybe, but Caleb Scott does.

For the 10-acre Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm – that produces 2 megawatts of electric power annually on an 11-acre plot adjacent Ithaca Tompkins County Regional Airport – grass grows well.

In lieu of running gas-powered, carbon-dumping mowers to maneuver around 6,778 solar panels, Scott – the mowing contractor, who owns Scott Land & Yard Services – ruminated about ruminants.

A flock of about 40 sheep (composed of ewes and gelded males) from Scott’s farm were delivered to the solar facility July 17 – to cut the grass.

Generally, lawn mowers emit about 148 pounds of carbon into the air if used an hour weekly. “Using sheep to mow the field is not only cost effective, but this reduces greenhouse gases and utilizes the agricultural potential of the site,” said Sarah Zemanick, director, Cornell Sustainability Office.

From now on, sheep will be there from May to October. The flock will be fenced in (protected from predators like coyotes) and they will have fresh, potable water. The solar panels provide shade and shelter from rain. Scott and his employees will inspect the fence line twice each week to ensure there are no gaps.

- Blaine Friedlander