By Casey Verderosa
The sun has influenced agriculture since the beginning. But amid the disappearance of family farms and the need for solutions to climate change, sun and earth are experiencing a new relationship: solar grazing. New Rev member company Scott Land Yard Group has big plans to regain agricultural land while contributing to sustainable energy production by raising sheep to essentially mow the lawn on ground-mounted solar fields.
While working in the solar industry as a contractor, owner Caleb Scott noted the high carbon cost of mechanically maintaining ground-mounted solar. “When I first wanted sheep on the site everyone said I was crazy,” he said. But that ingenuity comes with results. “We are reducing the carbon outlay by about nine metric tons per megawatt using sheep,” said Scott.
Sheep grazing as an alternative to lawn mowing was perhaps a more natural progression of thought to Scott and his wife Nicole Scott ’03, MLA ’07, the parent company’s landscape designer, as both were raised on farms – Nicole in Wyoming and Caleb here in the Ithaca area. Caleb Scott took over his family’s landscaping business, which has now been in operation for close to 40 years.
“Sustainability has always influenced how we landscape,” he said. “It’s always been a part of my vocabulary.” Scott’s family business has already branched out into innovative ways of landscaping, including creating edible landscapes and forest gardens. Starting a solar grazing business falls precisely in line with his family’s priorities over the years.
And Scott’s timing may be serendipitous as New York State hopes to triple its amount of ground-mounted solar arrays in the next three years. He estimates solar grazing can save as much as 54,000 tons of carbon per year with this state initiative.
American Solar Grazing Association(ASGA) members are currently grazing about two percent of arrays in the state and up to 15-20 percent in New York’s Southern Tier. As a VP and director of strategic initiatives at ASGA, Scott is hoping solar grazing will greatly expand in the Southern Tier and he would eventually like to see New York State compete with New Zealand, the world’s largest exporter of lamb, in sheep production.
His long-term goals don’t stop there, though. Down the road, Scott also wants to spin off Scott Land Yard Group into a farmer-owned co-op where struggling family farmers would gain access to land and be paid a living wage grazing sheep above and beyond the production value of the sheep themselves.
Scott Land Yard Group joins Rev with big plans for the growth of its industry. “I think Rev can offer us a lot of connections within the solar industry, with funding, and with accessibility to resources to grow the business in the right way,” said Scott. And the sky seems to be the limit.