The Surprising Heroes Helping in Solar Array Maintenance: Unlocking the Green Puzzle

July 5, 2023
1 min read
Source: Josh Paciorek, Twitter

In an innovative approach to maintaining their solar array, sheep have been introduced by Consumers Energy in collaboration with Western Michigan University. These adorable little “mowers” made their debut at the WMU Parkview Campus, captivating onlookers and symbolizing an exciting milestone for the company. This initiative focused on vegetation management is part of a pilot program,, where the sheep are tasked with keeping the grass in check across 8 and a half acres of land housing 3,900 solar panels. Since last May, a flock of 27 sheep has been diligently grazing the verdant lawn, showcasing their prowess as natural grazers. Josh Paciorek, Consumer Energy spokesperson, expressed enthusiasm while addressing inquiries regarding site maintenance and vegetation management, stating that sheep are increasingly emerging as a viable solution.

Benefiting both the environment and the land on which the arrays are situated, their innate grazing instincts make them ideal for the task. The sheep have admirably fulfilled their role within the pilot program at the Western Michigan University solar garden, efficiently trimming weeds and grass on the 8.5-acre site. Two solar garden locations are operated by Consumers Energy: one at Grand Valley State University and the other in Kalamazoo, where the latter encompasses nearly 4,000 panels at 4601 Campus Drive. Lauren Burns, owner of Tending Tilth LLC, a contract sheep grazing business based in Portage, is the caretaker for these diligent “mowers”. Further highlighting their effectiveness as a sustainable vegetation management solution, Burns shared that the sheep have already completed one grazing cycle on the site.

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Up to 1 megawatt of electricity is generated by the WMU Educational Solar Garden, contributing to a cleaner energy future. Underscoring their commitment to renewable energy, looking ahead, Consumers Energy envisions an ambitious plan to expand their solar arrays to 8, 000 megawatts by 2040. The solar garden is cordoned off from public access to ensure the sheep’s undisturbed grazing and to leverage their droppings for natural fertilization. Its prominent location, however, near US 131, just north of 1-94, provides visibility to passersby, allowing them to witness this remarkable eco-friendly partnership. Lauren Burns, of Tending Tilth LLC, gracefully walks past the grazing sheep, tending to their well-being. As sheep take center stage as the innovative solution to vegetation management in the solar array landscape, Western Michigan University, Consumers Energy, and their wooly helpers have achieved a pioneering milestone.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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