As part of its commitment to deliver clean energy solutions that benefit the long-term needs of customers and communities, National Grid recently launched its first-ever solar grazing pilot at two company-owned solar sites in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
The pilot – in partnership with Solar Shepherd, a Massachusetts-based company founded by a third-generation rancher – combines renewable energy and agriculture by introducing sheep to feed on the plentiful grasses that grow around ground-mounted solar panels, providing a sustainable form of vegetation control.
The partnership was the focus of a segment by CBS Saturday Morning that aired July 8. Steve Woerner, President, National Grid – New England, joined co-host Dana Jacobson in Attleboro to discuss National Grid’s growing relationship with solar grazing and how the company is creating clean energy solutions that work for everyone.
“The energy transition goes beyond investing in infrastructure—it’s also about investing in the people we serve every day,” said Woerner. “National Grid recognizes that we have an important role to play in driving the clean energy economy and providing meaningful opportunities to local businesses. Our new solar grazing partnership exemplifies how we continue to lead the way toward an equitable clean energy transition in the Northeast.”
Strengthening Community Roots in Massachusetts
The practice of harnessing grazing livestock as natural groundskeepers is a variation of agrivoltaics, described by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the use of land for both agriculture and solar photovoltaic energy generation. The pilot launched in May 2023 with an aim to replace traditional landscaping methods with a cleaner solution.
“Keeping environmental stewardship and thoughtful planning at the center of our work, solar grazing is a new way for our team to deliver for customers,” said Arnaldo Arnal, Lead Product Developer for Solar and Storage, National Grid. “Grazing sheep reduce the need for herbicides, pesticides, and gas-powered lawnmowers, cutting down on carbon emissions and noise pollution at solar sites and the surrounding community. Over time, the sheep’s natural fertilizer has the potential to boost soil biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration on company land.”
The practice also adds an additional purpose to large-scale solar site locations, supporting agricultural production and local Massachusetts ranchers as they adapt and advance their businesses.
“Solar grazing has allowed for a meaningful expansion of our local Massachusetts farm, while assisting in decarbonizing the grid,” said Daniel Finnegan, Founder of Solar Shepherd. “Finding a partner in National Grid that cares about the communities in which it operates – that seeks ways to reduce fossil fuel use, improve ecosystems, protect water sources, and maintain economic efficiency – has been critical to our success.”
Delivering Resilient and Reliable Clean Energy
Massachusetts leads the region in solar deployment, with National Grid having connected nearly 2 gigawatts of solar to the system, more than any other utility in New England. And, according to a recent study from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the state has enough suitable land to double the required amount of solar capacity to meet its decarbonization goals by 2050.
National Grid has taken significant measures to expand Massachusetts' renewable energy infrastructure through its long-running solar programs, leading research efforts to demonstrate how large-scale solar energy facilities can increase the resiliency of the electric system in communities across the Commonwealth. In addition, the company is focused on readying the grid for additional capacity by making investments to accelerate the interconnection of more clean energy resources.
The company currently owns and operates 30 solar sites in Massachusetts, including its solar grazing locations in Attleboro, which collectively comprise 5,000 panels spanning 10 acres of land. The two sites inject a total of 1600 kW into the grid, providing load relief to a nearby substation during peak summer days.
The next phase of the solar program will center on projects developed to increase resiliency for environmental justice communities statewide. National Grid expects to introduce grazing sheep to other sites as its solar portfolio expands.