Sheep May Safely Mow

Campus solar fields maintained by truckloads of hungry livestock.

May 25, 2023

Ginger Christ

flock of sheep running in front of a solar array.
Dozens of sheep will tend to the grass throughout Oberlin's 10-acre solar array.
Photo credit: Erich Burnett

Oberlin students just left campus for summer, and already a new flock has arrived.

On May 24, some 70 sheep from Old Slate Farm in Knox County were delivered to the fenced land north of campus that contains the institution’s 2.7 megawatt solar array. There they will graze through mid-June, munching and stomping grass in a move aimed at alleviating the need for costly and painstaking mowing of the site. Additional sheep drops will bring the total number of grazers to between 150 and 200.

sheep chewing grass.
photo by Jacob Strauss

The sheep will be delivered to the 10-acre field three times—in spring, summer, and fall. A form of agrivoltaics, in which land is used for both agriculture and energy generation, the sheep’s handiwork will reduce Oberlin’s emissions and its reliance on fossil fuel, as well as regular damage to equipment that results from mowing the rough terrain.

While exact figures as to how much the sheep will help reduce emissions—and ultimately help the college achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025—are unknown, Campus Energy and Resource Manager Joel Baetens has no doubt the sheep will help offset the carbon impact of maintaining the solar fields. Plus, they come with an annual price tag that represents a fraction of the $30,000 tab for mowing the fields by conventional means.

“So we’re paying them just like we’d pay a lawnmowing service,” he told The Chronicle-Telegram newspaper. “The deal is they’ve got to get the grass down to a certain amount and keep it there.

“It’s just a beautiful synergy that happens when you bring the grazers back to the pasture.”

Oberlin’s solar array is located in a construction zone dedicated to the institution’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program. Access to the array is prohibited without prior authorization from the Office of Communications and the Office of Environmental Sustainability. Contact Andrea Simakis, director of media relations, at 440-935-0154 or

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