Research shows that the implementation of a ground mounted solar pv project to grasslands help with biomass production and creates an ideal environment for crops to grow.
Studies from Temple University Pennsylvania show that the relationship between biomass production and shaded areas significantly increases under the shade. The results from this study align with research conducted at the University of Oregon which found that solar panels altered the microclimate variables which improved water efficiency that allowed for greater biomass growth. Efforts are being made to determine which crops are best suited to plant alongside solar PV projects. The grazing of livestock such as sheep will help maintain the land and keep crop growth to a height that will not hinder the energy production from the ground-mounted solar PV panels. Solar Panels will also benefit the welfare of livestock by providing them with shade allowing the animals to preserve energy and take shelter from the elements. Livestock grazing alleviates the need to manage plant growth under the solar panels through herbicides or regular mowing which require extra labour costs.
Ground-mounted solar PV projects are a relatively new development in Ireland. Enerpower installed Ireland’s first Solar farm in the Republic of Ireland at Eli Lilly in Kinsale Co. Cork last year. Ireland is yet to have enough ground-mounted solar PV projects to fairly conduct research on this matter, however, studies from Britain have shown similar results to the American researchers. With Ireland and Britain having the same climate, the outcome should be similar for both countries. The placement of sheep at the Dunderrow Solar farm ensures grass is kept short which allows for optimum energy output as the field does not become overgrown. The sheep at Eli Lilly are free to roam across all 22 acres of land
Largescale ground-mounted solar farms can be difficult to maintain, and low-intensity grazing can provide a low-cost effective way to manage your grassland while increasing the conservation value and soil quality of the land. Enerpower made the decision to allow for the grazing of sheep on the solar farm grassland. The sheep help maintain the plant growth. Enerpower have also made plans for biodiversity landscape in the area. The implementation of this will overall help the environment and surrounding ecosystems.