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Solar grazing: What’s it all about?

Here at Qcells, we’re excited about bringing our Muddy Creek solar project to fruition. The project will be the first in the Linn County to utilize solar grazing to create new revenue streams for farmers, ranchers, shepherds and landowners, keep traditional farming lands in production, improve soil quality and generate renewable energy.

How solar grazing works

Landowners or farmers lease their land to dual-use solar energy producers, who install and maintain solar arrays to generate renewable energy. As natural vegetation grows in the area, sheep are brought in to graze the land, fertilizing and rejuvenating the soil.  

And the benefits are big:

  • Flexibility for farmers – Local farmers, ranchers and landowners have more say in how they use their land.
  • New revenue streams – Farmers create new revenue by leasing their land to solar producers and earning money on energy generated there. They can also contract with shepherds to bring in sheep to graze the property. The end result is more stability for farmers and land that is kept viable for farming.
  • Improved soil conditions – Research has shown that managed grazing improves soil health and fosters healthy ecosystems. As sheep graze, they trample waste and old plant matter into the earth, which fertilizes and rejuvenates the soil.
  • Clean, renewable energy – Solar energy is a clean, renewable energy source that helps reduce carbon emissions and offers an alternative source of energy production.
  • Tax revenue for communities – Solar installations create tax revenue for local communities, and the associated workforce generates local spending.
  • Happier sheep – Animal behavior welfare studies of sheep grazing show that within a solar array, sheep seek out shelter and shade under the panels. On average, they are less stressed and have lower cortisol levels.

At our proposed Muddy Creek solar project, we’ll have solar panels and sheep grazing on 1,100 acres in the Coburg Hills area. The project is expected to generate an estimated 200 MW of solar energy per year – enough to power more than 34,000 households – while helping meet the agricultural and economic needs of the Willamette Valley.