The solar grazing flock at New England Solar continues to grow with more than 6,000 merinos and cross breeds now rotating on and off the 1,200 hectare Stage 1 project site.

The sheep and lambs have been grazing on the pastures around the solar panels since last Christmas, with extra mobs introduced gradually, to help them transition to their new feeding ground.

They’ll spend six weeks on the land, before being herded back to their sheds for health checks or vaccinations. And then they move on to other paddocks or straight back to their green solar pastures.

It will take a few seasons to properly assess the full benefits of running the sheep around the panels, however the early signs look positive.

Richard Munsie and Cameron Wood are two of our New England Solar project landholders running sheep across the solar farm site.

Richard said the panels created their own microclimate, which was an ideal environment for the ewes.

“They shade the early morning pastures which prolongs the effects of the dew. That helps the grass grow. And the panels also give shade to sheep and protection from frosts,” he said.

“We might even be able to run more sheep due to the climate created by the panels, but we’ll see.”

The early impressions from the solar grazing trial have now been captured on a new short video, featuring New England Solar staff and our land holders, but of course it’s the sheep that take centre stage.

Australia supplies around 70 per cent of the world’s apparel wool, according to Wool Producers Australia, and much of the prized fleece originates from the New England region in the NSW tablelands.

Cameron Wood said the fleece from his solar grazing saxon merinos was bound for the export market in Italy, where it will be turned into high end fashion.

“It’s been really exciting for us to first see the solar panels on the land to help us drought proof our operations, and then to bring the sheep back to the land to feed under the panels.

“The fresh grass and shade are a great combination – the sheep just look really happy. We’re looking forward to getting them in the sheds this winter for shearing, and their wool baled up for market.”

Earlier small scale solar grazing trials in Western NSW have already reported an increase in carrying capacity and wool quality.

Time will tell what results are achieved across Uralla’s cooler climate region for the New England Solar mob; however, all the early signs are pointing to a bright future ahead.

Who knows, there’s maybe even a unique branding opportunity to be created from Australia’s finest solar grazing fleece.

New England Solar

The 720 MW New England Solar project is being developed by ACEN Australia across 2,000 hectares of cleared grazing land leased from local landholders.

It will provide enough clean renewable power for around 300,000 homes.

Construction of the first 400 MW (520MW DC) stage was completed last year, making it one of the largest operating solar PV generators in Australia.

Around one million solar panels have been installed across 1,200 hectares of the Stage 1 project site, with production from the solar farm reaching its 400 MW capacity in December 2023.

New England Solar Stage 2 includes a 320 MW solar development and a 200 MW two hour battery storage system.

The battery energy storage system will provide enough on demand energy to power 175,000 homes.  Work is expected to begin on the Stage 2 development in late 2024.