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| 1 minute read

Grazin' on a sunny afternoon

According to a recent video from the World Economic Forum, putting solar panels on farmland may actually improve the happiness of sheep.

The video is based on research by Emma Kampherbeek et al, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Ewes placed in a field which was 60% covered by solar panels spent 70% of their time in the shade underneath the panels, and grazed 8% more than the same number of ewes placed in traditional open grazing. The "solar sheep" also lay down to rest a massive 71% more than their "traditional" counterparts, and spent 16% less time standing around doing nothing, which in sheep can be an indication of "reduced welfare".

An additional impact of the solar panels was an 172% increase in the nitrogen content of the grass. According to the research, "Solar panels can create micro-climates, in part because they provide shade, promoting higher soil moisture levels, and in part because during the night, dew accumulates on the solar panel surfaces, which drips down the edge and creates moist soil beneath the panels in which fresh, more protein-rich vegetation grows". This protein-rich grass tends to be more digestible for sheep, who may eat more as a result.

While the presence of solar panels seem to benefit the sheep, the animals can also keep down weeds underneath and around the panels, reducing obstructions and lowering maintenance costs in places where using a mower may be tricky. 

According to the World Economic Forum, doubling up on land use through agrivoltaic farming could help feed the world’s growing population, while also providing sustainable energy.

Agrivoltaics is the multifunctional use of land for both energy production through solar panels and agricultural production, for example through grazing


energy & environment