Australian solar farm hosting 6,000 sheep


From pv magazine Australia

On 2,000 hectares of grazing land near Uralla, in the Australian state of New South Wales, a mob of more than 6,000 merino and cross-breed sheep forage for six weeks at a time under the approximately 1 million panels deployed as part of the 400 MW first stage of Acen Australia’s New England solar farm.

The initial stage of the project, which is one of the largest operating solar generators in Australia, started exporting to the grid at the same time the first of the sheep were introduced to the site in December 2023. Since then, extra sheep have been introduced gradually, to help them transition to their new feeding ground.

Every six weeks the sheep are mustered to sheds for health checks or vaccinations and returned to co-exist in their renewable energy environment.

Image: ACEN Australia

Richard Munsie, who is one of the landholders running sheep on the solar farm site, said the early signs are positive. He said the panels create their own microclimate, which is ideal for the sheep.

“They shade the early morning pastures which prolongs the effects of the dew. That helps the grass grow. And the panels also give shade to sheep and protection from frosts,” he said. “We might even be able to run more sheep due to the climate created by the panels, but we’ll see.”

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Fellow landholder Cameron Wood said the solar panels have helped to drought-proof his operation.

“The fresh grass and shade are a great combination,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting [the sheep] in the sheds this winter for shearing, and their wool baled up for market.”

Image: ACEN Australia

Acen said assessments of the agrivoltaic project will continue over several seasons to review benefits of running sheep on the site. However, it noted that previous solar grazing trials in western New South Wales have demonstrated an increase in carrying capacity and wool quality.

Work on the second stage of the New England Solar Farm is expected to begin later this year, while construction of the first stage of what will eventually be a 200 MW / 400 MWh battery energy storage system at the site has already commenced.

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