COVINGTON, Ga. - U.S. Congressman Jody Hice made a stop in Newton County Thursday, Aug. 15 to learn more about the growing partnership between Snapping Shoals EMC and the Newton College and Career Academy FFA.
A total of 36 Katahdin sheep have been placed on the SSEMC Solar Farm property and through the partnership, local students will provide veterinary services and care for the animals.
"This is an opportunity for our students to work with an organization like Snapping Shoals and take it even further beyond agriculture with communication, professionalism and record-keeping," Marcus Pollard, agriculture teacher/FFA advisor, said. "It's just been really beneficial of us and the students have enjoyed the project."
Scott Fuss, SSEMC marketing and public relations specialist, said this project was not an original idea to SSEMC, as sheep and other livestock animals have been used to maintain solar farms in the United Kingdom for years.
"It's been a good opportunity for us in terms of the maintenance and that side of it," he said. Without the sheep on the property to provide the lawn care maintenance, the weeds and grass could grow to shade the solar panels.
"These are our 36 employees ... and I guess they have benefits," Fuss said. "We hope to at least double or triple the heard number because we want it to be intense enough that we don't have to mow."
Fuss said the sheep feed under the shade of the solar panels during the day and then move into the grazing the uncovered areas overnight.
"The advantage of sheep over goats is that sheep are like lawnmowers, they're going to move around and eat whereas goats are browsers and every goat out there would be on top of the panels," he said.
The SSEMC Solar Farm is located at the intersection of Highway 142 and Highway 11 and offers customers the opportunity to receive the benefits of solar power without having to install panels at their own home.
"There's only about 20% of homes you can put solar panels on because they're not structurally sound, there's covenants or its an apartment-type residence. There's a lot of things that might not allow members who could do this," Fuss said.
Hice said he loves the idea of collaboration between SSEMC and NCCA to use the land for educational purposes.
Along with the sheep, the Solar Farm also features two bee hives, which are also utilized by NCCA students.