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Solar farm company includes sheep grazing in its construction plans

By Rodney Woods

Sheep grazing is becoming more popular on solar farm sites, so much so that one company is planning for it when it constructs its solar projects.

Neoen Australia's head of development Garth Heron said the combination was beneficial for farmers.

“I think the major benefit for farmers is it allows them to diversify their income,” he said.

“Farming can be hit and miss and in drought years it's hard to make an income.

“The revenue continues with solar and keeps farms going.

“These are middle-scale farms, these are farms owned by local farmers and it allows them to stay in the region and allows them to pass it on to the family rather than pass it on to mega corporations.

“Another benefit is a higher survival rate of lambs due to the good fences and protection from the elements (that the sites provide).”

Mr Heron said the company's thoughts on how to incorporate sheep grazing into the solar projects had changed over time.

“We started agri-solar in 2017 with the Parkes site and found it was not only possible but effective,” he said.

“We have rolled out sheep grazing operations in all five of our sites at Numurkah (Drumanure is the site of the Numurkah Solar Farm), Parkes, Griffith, Dubbo and Colleambally.

“In the first trials we didn't envisage grazing, but it has allowed us to refine our future designs to make grazing easier.

“We now make all our projects with grazing in mind.

“We like the idea of protecting the land for solar but also enhancing revenue streams and diversifying the land with agriculture and the solar farm.”

With sheep grazing being so successful, Neoen is looking at diversifying sites even more.

“We are looking at specialist cropping and in particular indigenous food cropping,” Mr Heron said.

“When we have further information on that we will let people know, but we are keen to expand on just sheep grazing.”

Mr Heron said Neoen had plans to invest in more solar farms in Victoria on top of the Goorambat and Lemnos sites, which have already been approved, but said there was no update on the controversial Lemnos site when asked.