Latest news

East Farm: from mechanical grass cutting to livestock grazing  

3 min read time

East Farm is a 5MW solar plant in Dorset. The site, with its 18,500+ ground-mounted solar panels, has been designed so that it is hidden from ground view, with screening provided by surrounding hedgerow.

The site’s first power generation was in March 2017, and it now produces enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of approximately 1,500 UK homes per annumi. Prior to Bluefield Operations Limited (Bluefield Operations) taking over the site’s management in 2019, the site’s grass was mechanically cut twice a year. 

Bluefield Operations’ objectives upon starting to manage East Farm:  

  • To change from mechanical cutting to grazing, which can be a more efficient and less ecologically invasive land management technique, thus helping the site operate in a more environmentally friendly manner.  
  • To broaden the use of the land upon which East Farm is situated by enabling it to be used for both renewable energy generation and local agricultural purposes.  

Actions taken by Bluefield Operations Limited:  

  • Bluefield Operations integrated agrivoltaic principles (the simultaneous use of land for both solar photovoltaic power generation and agriculture) to East Farm’s management. 80 sheep were introduced to the site in May 2021 to naturally perform aspects of site maintenance such as maintaining grass length.  
  • Bluefield Operations collaborated with local livestock owners to implement a mutually beneficial land management agreement and livestock rota. Given the expected lifespan of solar PV technology, which can be 30+ years, these agreements can help support local agricultural activity over the long-term (including raising sheep for lambing).  

Business case for sheep introduction: 

Uninterrupted renewable energy production  

Grass mixes are often sown in and around solar panels, helping preserve and enhance the natural environment by promoting the growth of a more diverse mix of grass species. However, if the grass grows too long, it can shade solar panels and make them operate less efficiently. Maintaining the grass length on solar sites is therefore essential for creating favourable conditions for sunlight to reach solar panels.  

Natural land maintenance  

Livestock, like sheep, that are small enough not to damage the solar panels, are able to naturally maintain the land of solar sites by helping to keep vegetation neatly trimmed most of the year. Whilst just as effective as mechanical cutting, sheep are a more natural and cost-effective land management option for solar sites.   

Potential Environmental Benefits  

Compared to mechanical cutting, livestock may help improve the health of the land and soil they graze due to their less invasive nature. When sheep are intelligently rotated around a solar site, they consume overgrown vegetation and potentially spread minerals and nutrients back into the land through their manure.  

Improved agricultural opportunities and community relations  

Grazing sheep on solar sites means the land can operate with a dual purpose: energy and agricultural production. Sheep are an important source of wool, dairy foods, and meat. By co-locating sheep and solar energy generation, we can better support local sheep grazers’ businesses and build stronger, more fruitful ties with local communities.  

Results achieved at East Farm: 

Bluefield Operations were able to reach a mutually beneficial grazing agreement with local livestock owners within a month of initiating conversations. 80 sheep were then introduced to the site in a very timely manner. 

The site design, which includes two separately fenced fields, facilitates stock rotation through the movement of sheep between the two areas, preventing overgrazing. Since placing the sheep on site, they have successfully negated the need for mechanical cutting intervention through maintaining healthy grass height and preventing shading, aiding renewable energy production.   

Since Bluefield Operations took on East Farm’s management, they have also encouraged 1.9 hectares of wildflower growth north of the site, which we hope will support surrounding fauna and flora.   

Get in touch to learn more about how we approach land and biodiversity management across sites managed by Bluefield.  


iEstimates based on UK Governments 2022 GHG conversion factors and Ofgem’s Typical Domestic Consumption Values 2020


DISCLAIMER AND IMPORTANT NOTICE

This Article is being issued by Bluefield Partners LLP (Bluefield), which is authorised and regulated in the United Kingdom by the Financial Conduct Authority, to provide certain information about Bluefield Partners and its affiliated companies (the Bluefield Group). Bluefield’s registered office address is 40 Queen Anne Street, London, W1G 9EL and its FCA Firm Reference Number is 507508.

No Offer: This Article is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or financial products in any jurisdiction. This Article and the information contained therein is not intended for distribution or publication to persons outside the United Kingdom. This Article is not directed at, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity that is a citizen or resident or located in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to applicable law or regulation or would require any registration or licensing within such jurisdiction. This Article is not a marketing communication. Recipients in jurisdictions outside the United Kingdom should inform themselves about and observe any applicable legal or regulatory requirements in relation to the distribution or possession of this Article in that jurisdiction.

Not Advice: The information contained in this Article is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice, and is not a recommendation, endorsement or representation as to the suitability of any investment or financial product. You should seek independent professional advice before making any investment or financial product decision.

Past performance is not indicative of future results; no representation is being made that any investment will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those achieved in the past, or that significant losses will be avoided. Any investment carries risk and the value of an investment can down as well as up. Capital at Risk.

Investments in private placements are complex, highly illiquid and speculative in nature and often involve a high degree of risk. The value of an investment may go down as well as up, and investors may not get back their money originally invested. Investors who cannot afford to lose their entire investment should not invest. Investors will typically receive illiquid interests that may be subject to holding period requirements and/or liquidity concerns. Investors who cannot hold an investment for the long term (at least 10 years) should not invest.

No Reliance: The information contained in this Article is based on publicly available information and internally developed data, but no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy, completeness or reliability of such information. Any projections or other forward-looking statements contained in this Article are based on assumptions that may change and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in such projections or statements. This Article and any information contained within it may be amended or withdrawn at any time without notice. Bluefield and the Bluefield Group are not responsible for any losses sustained by any party in connection with the use of this Article and the information contained therein and disclaim all liability to the extent permitted by relevant applicable law and regulation.

Register for regular updates

Terms acceptance(Required)