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Cañada College Solar Project Uses Old Fashioned Vegetation Control

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   July 08, 2016   |   Image Gallery »
Cañada College Solar Project Uses Old Fashioned Vegetation Control

After a wet spring season, mixed with all this warm sunny summer weather, the shrubs and weeds at the Cañada College solar installation site have grown tall once again. Although the 1 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) installation contains the most modern state-of-the-art technology, the college district will once again utilize a very old fashioned and non-technical solution for vegetation control—sheep.

This will be the second time sheep have grazed among the solar panels, slowly eating all those pesky weeds that would otherwise begin to obstruct some of the sun’s rays. Why use sheep instead of goats?  For one, sheep are much pickier eaters than goats. They carefully pull, tug, and eat shrubs and weeds but will leave electrical cables alone; goats on the other hand will eat almost anything and everything!

The solar farm at Cañada College has been producing clean renewable electrical power for the college since late 2014. The project was the first large-scale renewable construction project undertaken by the district and it has been a success. More than 4,000 high-efficiency PV panels are set at a fixed 10-degree angle on a ground-mount array on a 3.5-acre site. The site is hidden just below the campus athletic fields to be unobtrusive, with the advantage of being adjacent to the campus main electrical powerhouse for connection to the grid. It offsets half of Cañada College’s entire electrical consumption and should continue to do so for at least the next 20 years. The project received funding from the California Solar Initiative and from Proposition 39 (the California Clean Energy Jobs Act passed in 2012). Both have been instrumental in getting the project underway.

Swinerton Management & Consulting (SMC) has been providing program management and construction management services for the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) since they started their Capital Improvement Program in 2001. In winter 2013, SMC assisted the district in selecting a design-build team through the government code 4217 best-value procurement process. The SMCCCD Board of Trustees awarded a design-build contract to Allana Buick & Bers, Inc. in January 2014 and SMC worked with them and the district to manage the project through design, construction, and closeout.

During the project several options and systems were considered for weed control at the site, however; the best choice seemed to be quite simple—sheep. Sustainable and organic, the solution fits well with the goals of the project—and as of June—the sheep have been on site once again to help keep green power flowing at Cañada College.