October 17, 2018

A flock of 30-some sheep will keep the grass trimmed throughout the 14-acre solar array starting ... A flock of 30-some sheep will keep the grass trimmed throughout the 14-acre solar array starting in April 2019. These sheep were on hand, especially for Wednesday's event.Susquehanna University officially “flipped the switch” on its 3.9 MW DC solar array that supplies 30 percent of the university’s electricity needs—the largest university-sponsored solar array in Pennsylvania.

Sheep to Shear Grass, Weeds

Campus and community members flocked to the event for the unveiling of a few representative lamby “lawn mowers” that will help maintain the grass and weeds around the array—a small flock of sheep from Owens Farm, Sunbury.

The sheep wool help maintain the efficiency of the array by ensuring that grass and weeds won’t grow higher than the panels, which would create sun-blocking shade. Susquehanna President Jonathan D. Green called the sheep, “the most environmentally responsible lawn-mowing team of any college or university.”

The fleecy flock of 30-some sheep will begin their work at the array in April 2019.

The solar initiative is a partnership with WGL Energy Systems, which has more than 200 MW of distributed generation projects installed or under contract across 20 states and the District of Columbia. WGL owns and operates the facility under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA), and Susquehanna purchases electricity from WGL. SGC Power, a Maryland-based company, served as co-developer on the project and provided design and construction services.

Wednesday’s event capped months of sustainability recognitions for Susquehanna.

Michael Coyne, vice president for finance and administration and co-chief operating officer at Susquehanna, highlighted the university’s great strides.

“In nine years, we have gone from the Sierra Club’s list of ‘Schools Who Burn Coal’ to the Sierra Club’s list of ‘Cool Schools.’ It hasn’t been easy … but as the warnings about climate change have reached a new level of alarm, all that work has proven worth the effort,” Coyne said. “To shed some light—pun intended—this solar field isn’t our final destination; it’s a milestone along the way to the university being a carbon-neutral campus.”

Other speakers at Wednesday’s event included Richard Walsh, program lead, clean energy solutions, WGL Energy; and Michael Walsh, deputy secretary for administration, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.