Other than war and weather, the biggest problems facing the planet are producing enough food and energy, both consumed at staggering rates by a population growing faster than farmers and fossil fuels can keep up with. Solar farms are certainly helping address the increased energy demands in the U.S. and abroad.
What makes a site good for a solar farm is also what makes it good for livestock and agriculture — in a rural area, away from close neighbors and mostly flat.
But can what we eat thrive next to what we consume in energy? The answer according to many experts is a resounding yes. In fact, with weather patterns changing so violently in recent years, many livestock growers (and other vegetable and fruit farmers) are finding a solar array on their property a sure payback to offset the unpredictability of farming costs.
Clearly, cattle ranchers must separate their livestock from the solar farm arrays. The panels are fixed relatively low to the ground, so cattle cannot graze beneath them. Cattle farmers, though, find solar panels especially helpful in the sanitation and production process.
But other livestock, experts agree, can clearly live and live well on the same land tracts where solar panels are sited. The United Kingdom has this technique down pat. Sheep, goats, chickens, hens, turkeys and other smaller species have successfully lived on solar farms in the U.K. for years.
The only problem the nation’s largest solar farm developer recently encountered on a new project was discovering multiple, underground nests of a rare butterfly species. The company chose to use targeted drilling for its solar panels’ posts, rather than “trenching” to run lines to power company substations. Problem solved.
Public pressure may be the only obstacle. But responsible, ethical solar farm developers can reassure livestock consumers that animals and their meat are not harmed.