Just when you thought goats were being offered all the primo landscaping gigs (Google, Chicago O’ Hare, etc.) comes a story out of San Antonio involving the grass-clearing prowess of another cloven-hoofed ruminant: sheep.

As reported by the Texas Tribune, a 4.4-megawatt South Texas solar farm operated by OCI Solar Power is now the grazing grounds of about 90 hardworking Barbados Cross sheep (appearance-wise, these hair goats aren’t your stereotypical fluffy white bleat machines). The herd was brought in to help keep the 45-acre facility neat, tidy, and free of overgrowth that would, as the Tribune explains, “otherwise impede the company’s technicians.”

While sheep-for-hire are less expensive to employ than single-chamber-stomached landscapers — who are liable to due things like call in sick, take extended lunch breaks, and demand vacation days — they also have an advantage over other ruminants, goats specifically, when working on a pasturage dominated by electrical equipment: they’re not prone to jumping and gnawing on wires and cables.

Additionally, ovine lawnmowers are able to maneuver around the thousands of photovoltaic panels at the Alamo 2 solar farm with relative ease and tackle spots that people-powered mechanical landscaping equipment might not be able to reach. And they're a low-maintenance bunch as well: when the sheep need a break from grazing away under the hot South Texas sun, they simply plop themselves down under the panels for a spell. And unlike goats, they also don’t need supplemental food to survive.

Speaking to the Tribune, OCI Solar Power spokeswoman Sara Krueger gives the industrious rams and ewes a glowing review: “The sheep have done a really good job of keeping it nice. They seem to be moving naturally around the site.”

The resident sheep at Alamo 2, a modest-sized facility located in a somewhat built-up residential area outside of San Antonio, have been on the job since April; they'll remain onsite for another several months before being swapped out for a new team.

Working in partnership with San Antonio’s municipally owned electric and gas utility, CPS Energy, OCI Solar oversees seven completed and under-development clean energy-generating farms in South Texas with a total capacity of 400-megawatts. The company is considering the idea of introducing a team of "lambscapers" to one of the larger facilities — a 41-megawatt facility spanning 500 acres.

And with every herd comes a no-nonsense herding dog. In this case, two Great Pyrenees mixes keep their charges in line and while fending off coyotes and other interlopers with a taste for fresh mutton. One of the farm’s newest canine caretakers is without a name and, so, CPS Energy is hosting a poll in which the public is invited to help bestow him one. The utility has created a list of solar- and Alamo-themed suggestions that voters can pick from: “Volt,” “Wattson,” “Crockett,” “Kilo,” or “Sunny." (I suppose "Antonio López de Santa Anna" doesn't exactly roll off the shepherd's tongue). Or, you can throw in your own sheep-herding solar farm dog name idea for consideration.

The winning name will be announced next week.

Via [NY Times/Texas Tribune], [CPS Energy]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Texas solar farm recruits 'lambscaping' team to clear away weeds
At a small San Antonio solar facility, the ovine groundskeeping crew keep things trim and tidy with the aid of split upper lips and 4-chambered stomachs.