Visit to Plant

Number of Sheep Increased to Boost Weeding Efficiency at Solar Plant (page 2)

Herbicide used proactively in areas with no sheep

2019/06/17 17:01
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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Nikke grazes its sheep in the site of this mega-solar plant in Akashi Tsuchiyama in the hope that the local residents may feel an affinity for the plant. Unlike most golf courses in mountain forests, this former golf course is located in town. Nikke feared that the power plant with 50,000 solar panels, which was transformed from such a green golf course, might give a cold inorganic impression.

Accordingly, Nikke decided to acquire some sheep and graze them in the power plant site. Among livestock, sheep are relatively meek and friendly. The company felt that local people would have an affinity with the mega-solar plant if they saw sheep walking around within the plant site.

The sheep also play a role in corporate PR activities, being used as the mascot character of Nikke whose original business is wool spinning. Furthermore, the sheep are expected to alleviate the company from the burden of weeding by eating the grass in the mega-solar plant every day.

Nikke currently has five sheep and shears them in late May every year. Because sheep have been bred as livestock for shearing, their wool does not naturally molt so continues to grow. If sheep wool grows too much in the hot season, it will interfere with the animals' body temperature control and health. For this reason, the sheep need to be sheared once a year from spring to early summer (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Sheared wool amounts to about 4kg per sheep (source: Nikkei BP)

Wool of the sheep at the mega-solar plant grows about 10cm per year. The staff of Rokkosan Pasture (Nada-ku, Kobe City), the sheep's previous home, visited and quickly sheared the five sheep. As soon as the sheep were sheared of about 4kg of wool each, they returned to the mega-solar site, looking refreshed, and started eating grass (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Start eating grass as soon as shearing finishes (source: Nikkei BP)