Solar shepherd is a real job, and could help save solar farms money

My five-year-old wants to be a mommy/accountant/ballerina/civil engineer/deli worker when she grows up. Lean in, girl. Lean. In.

While her list of career aspirations is ...

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Solar shepherd is a real job, and could help save solar farms money

There’s a growing trend with solar farms, and it could save ewe some money.

Key Points

  • Vegetation management is a major expense for solar farms.
  • Instead of paying someone to mow the grass, many solar farms are recruiting sheep to do the job.
  • This helps lower costs for energy companies, and helps farmers earn new income. 

My five-year-old wants to be a mommy/accountant/ballerina/civil engineer/deli worker when she grows up. Lean in, girl. Lean. In.

While her list of career aspirations is growing, I might introduce her to a new job gaining in popularity: the solar shepherd.

Yep, there’s a growing trend with solar farms, and it could save ewe some money (sorry, I had to).

Keeping the grass, weeds and other vegetation cut around solar farms is a major operating expense for solar energy producers. If vegetation gets out of control, it could twist around the solar panel wiring, or simply get so tall that it blocks the sun and hinders solar energy output.

Traditional mowers have usually done the job, but an alternative is becoming more popular – sheep.

Many solar farms just happen to be in rural areas where farmers already live and work. And having a local farmer graze sheep around the solar panels is a win-win. The farmers get a place to graze their sheep and make some extra income, and the energy producers save on vegetation management costs.

According to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, in North Carolina – the nation’s second largest solar energy producer behind California – a company called Sun Raised Farms has contracted with energy producers throughout the state to maintain solar farms including using grazing to help keep the vegetation in check and only mow when grazing isn’t an option.

Solar shepherds are becoming so popular that North Carolina State University hosts solar shepherding ag seminars, and is now considering creating an entire academic program focused on sheep grazing solar farms.

I’ll see if my daughter wants to add solar shepherd to her list. And down the road, if you happen to need a talented dancer who can also do your taxes, design a bridge and make you a sandwich with kids and sheep in tow, I know just the gal.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Some surprising tips for your 2018 health resolutions

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to get healthy. And the general game plan to do that usually includes working out more, eating healthier and getting more sleep.

But ...

Tagged: weatherization, saving energy, health

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Some surprising tips for your 2018 health resolutions

Graphic shows how weatherization can improve your health.

According to a Department of Energy poll, residents who received weatherization services reported sleeping better and demonstrated increased levels of energy.

Key Points

  • Weatherizing your home does more than reduce your energy bills.
  • It can also improve your health and safety.
  • 40 million U.S. families may qualify for weatherization assistance. 

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to get healthy. And the general game plan to do that usually includes working out more, eating healthier and getting more sleep.

But you might be surprised to hear that weatherizing your house can help you reach your 2018 health goals.

According to the Department of Energy, weatherizing your home can improve your health and safety. Here’s how:

Weatherization can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be lethal in certain doses. Weatherization crews test furnaces and stoves for gas leaks and install alarms for smoke and carbon monoxide in the home.

Weatherization reduces stress

Making ends meet is stressful. Lowering your energy bill can help. According to a Department of Energy poll, residents who received weatherization services reported sleeping better and demonstrated increased levels of energy.

Weatherization can help your asthma

Asthma is the leading cause for children to miss school. But weatherization improvements like air sealing, insulation, and improved heating and cooling equipment can reduce asthma triggers in the home.

How to apply for Weatherization Assistance

According to the Department of Energy, more than 40 million U.S. families may be eligible for weatherization services nationwide. Energy services are provided by each states’ local weatherization agencies.

If you receive Supplemental Security Income or help to pay your utility bills from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, you are automatically eligible to receive weatherization services. To learn more about the application process and eligibility in your area, contact your state’s administrator. A full listing of state-by-state contact information is available here.

If you don’t qualify for this service, there are many ways you can weatherize your home on your own. Check out these step by step guides to get the job done.

Hope you have a happy, healthy and safe 2018!


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Scheming ways to outwit your smart building? You’re not alone

Smart buildings may have artificial intelligence, but they’re no match for a cold woman on a mission to turn up the heat.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, smart buildings

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Scheming ways to outwit your smart building? You’re not alone

Woman bundled up in a scarf and sweater tries to stay warm at work.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient buildings aren’t above using a Popsicle to raise the heat or a children’s toy to trick motion detection lights into staying on.

Key Points

  • Many high-efficiency buildings don’t see the energy savings the designers anticipated.
  • A study found that many occupants work around inefficient designs.
  • Researchers hope designers can keep people and numbers in mind to maximize energy savings. 

Smart buildings may have artificial intelligence, but they’re no match for a cold woman on a mission to turn up the heat.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient buildings aren’t above using a Popsicle to raise the heat or a children’s toy to trick motion detection lights into staying on.

The study in the journal “Energy Research and Social Science” examined how people are living in high-efficiency buildings and why these buildings’ energy savings are often less than anticipated.

The researchers discovered that many energy-efficient designs are circumvented by unhappy inhabitants.

Motion sensor lights were the subject of many complaints, with people confessing to using a toy drinking bird to keep the lights on all the time.

Temperature also caused discomfort.

Occupants fessed up to taping a coin to a windowsill to reflect light and force the A/C on. Others held Popsicles up to the thermostat to trick it into raising the heat.  

The study concluded that designers need to keep people — not just numbers — in mind during the building process. The researchers hope to look into more ways energy=efficient design can better serve energy=savings goals and the people who use the buildings.

In the end, that will hopefully lead to more energy savings and more comfortable people.

What are some ways building designers could make your efficient building more comfortable? Have you ever tried to work around your building’s efficient design? Tell us below.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How to find LED Christmas lights that aren’t ugly

I know I should like LED holiday lights.

They save energy. They help save on power bills during the holiday months. They’re safer and last longer than the old incandescent ...

Tagged: leds, Christmas, Christmas lights

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How to find LED Christmas lights that aren’t ugly

DJ Santa wears snow-encrusted glasses so as not to be blinded by LED lights

[I]t’s hard to get excited about hanging the LED lights when they make my house look more like something off the Vegas strip than the Norman Rockwell painting vibe I was going for.

Key Points

  • LED lights save energy and money.
  • They’re also safer and last longer.
  • The latest versions are pretty, too. 

I know I should like LED holiday lights.

They save energy. They help save on power bills during the holiday months. They’re safer and last longer than the old incandescent ones.

But it’s hard to get excited about hanging the LED lights when they make my house look more like something off the Vegas strip than the Norman Rockwell painting vibe I was going for.

Thankfully, LED Christmas light options have greatly improved since they lit up the Capitol Christmas tree back in 2006.

Gone are the days of the icy-blue tone and burn-your-retina intensity. We can now get versions with soft light that don’t hurt to look at.

Here’s what to look for to get LED lights with a warm, soft glow.

Check the color temperature

Christmas light labels have a lot of information, but here’s the good news: According to Popular Mechanics, you can ignore the lumen and watts and focus on the color temperature instead. If you want a softer glow, look for an LED bulb with a color temperature of 2,700 to 3,000 K. These lights will look more like an old-fashioned incandescent light. The harsh LED lights usually have a color temperature of 4,500 K.

Then look at the color accuracy

If you want to avoid that blueish hue, then you need to check the color accuracy. Some packages include a color accuracy score. You’ll want a CRI score that’s in the 90s. If it’s in the 80s or below, then the light will be harsher.

When all else fails, don’t be afraid to be that high-maintenance shopper who opens the package and plugs them in to make sure they’re just right. You’re making an investment that will hopefully hang on your tree or house for many holiday seasons, so it’s worth the extra hassle.

Still not convinced to make the LED switch? Check out this lesson from the Griswolds.

No, their house isn’t on fire, those are just the Christmas lights.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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