April 25, 2019

Susquehanna University officially welcomed a flock of woolly lawnmowers to campus Thursday with the addition of about 20 sheep to the university’s 14-acre solar array.

The sheep, from Owens Farm, Sunbury, Pennsylvania, will graze around the solar array to keep the grass trimmed, ensuring that the grass and weeds will not grow higher than the panels, which would create sun-blocking shade and impede the array’s efficiency. The sheep also eliminate the need for diesel-fueled lawnmowers—further demonstrating the university’s commitment to sustainability.

President Jonathan D. Green offered his remarks just before a group of preschoolers from Summit Early Learning sang Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.

“I think it’s emblematic that this celebration involves children because this really is an effort to be good stewards for the future,” Green said. “I’m proud of this institution for taking action again and again. We’ve gone from burning coal to high efficiency natural gas on our campus, moving us from being a polluting institution to being one of the cool, green schools, according to Sierra Club.”

Susquehanna’s solar sheep are year-old Katahdins, a breed of hair sheep that do not produce a woolly coat and are ideal for pasture lambing and grass/forage-based management.

Stephanie Clouser ’21, a biomedical sciences major from Madisonburg, Pennsylvania, acts as shepherdess to the sheep, regularly making make sure the sheep are present and healthy.

“I grew up showing sheep in 4-H and I raised sheep on my farm when I was younger, so I am already familiar with how sheep function,” Clouser said.

As shepherdess, Clouser will also inspect the perimeter of the solar array’s fence to ensure that no predators are trying to get through and to make sure the sheep’s water line is working properly.

The sheep will be rotated throughout the grounds of the solar array from April until sometime in October, making sure that they forage grass and weeds evenly.

Susquehanna’s solar initiative is a partnership with WGL Energy Systems, which owns and operates the facility under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The 3.9-megawatt solar array supplies 30 percent of the university’s electricity needs—the largest university-sponsored solar array in Pennsylvania.