Here’s a charming and sustainable way to keep the grass trimmed beneath solar arrays. Sheep nibble the grass down to a manageable level.

This relatively small North Carolina installation supplying electricity to Progress Energy is kept trim without fossil-fuels in what sustainable landscaping circles consider “best practices” for sustainability – by sheep.

It is owned by Carolina Solar Energy LLC with financing by BB&T Equipment Finance Corporation, and its electricity is sold to a local utility; Progress Energy which is mandated to buy an increasing portion of energy production from renewable energy, with a small beginning of 3% by 2012, and to reach 12% by 2021. Next Progress plans to build a 2.3 MW solar array, its sixth of small, but ever increasing in size solar projects. It will be financed, built and operated by San Francisco-based MP2 Capital.

These arrays are very far from the utility-scale solar farms such as are being proposed in the California desert. Typical utility-scale projects would be well over 100 MW, most are 250 MW, and the Military is planning a 1 GW solar farm. This is just 650 kilowatts; about what a large factory or industrial complex might put on its roof.

Why this Person County utility is taking such baby steps, I’m not sure. Perhaps it is just green-washing. But, whatever its motivation, going so slow has a side benefit. It’s made it possible for a utility and local county officials to test run the grass, and the sheep.

The beauty of this tiny installation is this unique concept – allowing grass and sheep to coexist pleasantly with the solar farm. If this works on the next solar farm the utility envisions, from there, it might lead to a wider adoption, and remedy much of the anguish of environmentalists that has led to the solar gridlock in the California desert.

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