Solar farm meets traditional farming

Communications TeamNews

Sheep grazing among solar panels

Castle Hill won’t let the grass grow as 51 sheep are welcomed onto solar field

There’s a lot to think about when you set out to build a multi-million pound solar farm; how best to capture the sun? How much power will it generate? Are all the permissions in place?  But one question that may not immediately spring to mind is how to cut the grass.

Sheep grazing in the sunshine among the solar panels

Sheep among the solar panels, opposite Castle Hill Hospital

This was the dilemma facing the team at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and its 11,000 panel ‘field of dreams’ opposite Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham.

Now thanks to a local shepherding family, they’ve come up with the ultimate, sustainable green solution; a flock of 51 hungry sheep.

“The idea came about by chance, after we started looking at ways of cutting the grass between the rows of solar panels,” says Alex Best, Head of Capital for the Trust.

“We approached a number of landscapers for ideas on how we could manage the grass cutting, both mechanically and sustainably, and this felt like the perfect solution; keeping the grass down naturally and reducing our carbon footprint. It ties in perfectly with our ethos of sustainability and supporting our local community, and the costs involved are extremely competitive at just one sixth of what it would cost us to cut the grass mechanically.

Curly haired sheep looking directly at the camera

“We intended the field to become an area of natural biodiversity, and the natural approach to maintaining the land we’re now taking only enhances this.”

A total of 51 sheep of varying breeds including Beltex and Blue Texel are now happily munching away in Field A, which lies adjacent to Castle Road and the A164. The flock is helping to control the growth of grasses and other wildflowers sown on the field when construction finished in February this year.

Grant Bailey and his brother Ollie, both from Cottingham (pictured below), helped to bring the family’s sheep up to their new stomping ground. Grant, who runs GMB Mini Tool Hire, also maintains the lower field (Field B) on behalf of the Trust.

Ollie and Grant Bailey standing with a sheep in solar field

Grant Bailey (right) and his brother Ollie in the solar field with their sheep

Grant says:

“We needed somewhere for our sheep to go and within a couple of days of chatting to Alex, we were talking about how we could make it work.

“We knew of the solar field but hadn’t actually thought about it as an option. Now the sheep are here, they seem really happy and it’s great to have found a solution to both our needs without having to have looked outside the village.”

Grant and Ollie check on the sheep twice a day to make sure they’re all okay.

The sheep are secured within the field with plenty of space to roam, while 21 rows of solar panels and the surrounding trees provide plenty of shade to cool down when the weather gets hot.

And there’s no risk of supply cables being nibbled either; the panels are mounted high enough to be out of reach of curious faces and the cables are protected in hard plastic as they reach the ground to keep both the solar farm and its occupants safe.