Sun-Powered Schools, and Grazing Groundskeepers

Sun-Powered Schools, and Grazing Groundskeepers
These sheep will serve as groundskeepers and mowers at the new solar array that will will provide power to Midland and Cedar Ridge schools under a solar services agreement with Entegrity. (Anna Stearns/Entegrity)

Entegrity of Little Rock and two Independence County school districts celebrated a new 1.3-Mw solar facility this month with a “flip the switch” ceremony, but some of the key dignitaries present had only one thing to say:

“Bah.” Or was that “baa”?

Along with leaders, policymakers and students of the Cedar Ridge and Midland school districts, the gathering included a small flock of sheep who serve as groundskeepers and mowers at the array, which will provide power to the schools under a solar services agreement with Entegrity. Midland schools expect to save $46,000 a year on power costs, and Cedar Ridge officials are counting on $65,000 a year in savings.

“The Midland District knew it wanted to benefit from solar, so the board decided to collaborate with one of our neighboring districts by installing a co-located array,” Superintendent Bruce Bryant said in a statement. “I encourage more small districts in the state to explore all options available.”

The Cedar Ridge system is supplying the grounds crew: Dorper sheep that are seen as an environmentally friendly option. The sheep strengthen roots of vegetation and spread seeds and fertilizer, restoring the soil and generating more biodiverse vegetation to absorb more carbon from the air.

“The solar project is a great fit with our agriculture program,” siad Tim Cunningham, Cedar Ridge’s agriculture teacher and FFA adviser. “The fields will have multiple agricultural uses such as cultivating certain plants and raising sheep that will aid students with hands-on activities.”

Cedar Ridge Superintendent Sherry McMasters said her district was “thrilled” to work with Entegrity. “Not only are we saving money, we are improving the learning environment for our students and teaching them sustainable practices… I am proud to be a part of the first co-located solar array in the state, and the first to incorporate sheep.”

The project drew praise from state Sen. James Sturch, R-Batesville, as well as state Reps. Stu Smith, who represents Cedar Ridge, and Craig Christiansen, who represents Midland.

“Entegrity is honored to continue implementing these innovative solar projects,” said Rick Vance, Entegrity’s regional director. “This is a smart way for smaller districts and other public entities to approach energy savings.”