A small flock of sheep is helping University of Queensland (UQ) scientists to cut the cost of operating Australia’s largest solar research facility in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane.
The 3.27MW solar farm has slashed grid electricity use by 40 per cent since coming online in March last year, but has struggled with maintaining the grass on the 11.5ha site. The cost of mowing, which takes up to four days to complete, came in at nearly $50,000 in the first year of the solar farm’s operation.
UQ energy and sustainability manager Andrew Wilson told the ABC 10 sheep were brought in to graze permanently on the site.
“There’s great feed available for them and the fact that we have solar panels there it also provides really great shading opportunities for them – in really hot weather they can get out of the sun,” he said.
Mr Wilson said UQ was keen to expand the area on the solar farm available to the sheep.
“They are currently maintaining an area of around 4.5ha and soon we’ll expand that to another 2.5ha and in total they’ll be looking after about 60 per cent of the solar farm’s grass.
“That will significantly cut down on the mowing and maintenance costs that we’ve been having.”
The sheep were brought in from UQ’s school of veterinary science and they remain a part of the school’s teaching and research programs.
Shifting them to the solar farm has also freed up agricultural land on campus for other activities.