• Managed sheep grazing can improve soil quality and carbon sequestration at solar photovoltaic sites

      Towner, Elizabeth; Karas, Tom; Janski, Jake; Macknick, Jordan; Ravi, Sujith; Towner|0000-0003-1618-2411; Ravi|0000-0002-0425-9373 (2022-01-13)
      Solar energy development is land intensive and recent studies have demonstrated the negative impacts of large-scale solar deployment on vegetation and soil. Co-locating vegetation with managed grazing on utility scale solar PV sites could provide a sustainable solution to meeting the growing food and energy demands, along with providing several co-benefits. However, the impacts of introducing grazing on soil properties at vegetated solar PV sites are not well understood. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated the impacts of episodic sheep grazing on soil properties (micro and macro nutrients, carbon storage, soil grain size distribution) at six commercial solar PV sites (MN, USA) and compared that to undisturbed control sites. Results indicate that implementing managed sheep grazing significantly increased total carbon storage (10-80%) and available nutrients, and the magnitude of change correlated with the grazing frequency (1-5 years) at the study sites. Furthermore, it was found that sites that experienced consecutive annual grazing treatments benefitted more than intermittently grazed sites. The findings will help in designing resource conserving integrated solar energy and food/fodder systems, along with increasing soil quality and carbon sequestration.