Are they planning to unionize?
Volkswagen recently expanded its electric car family with the ID.5, a stylish coupe SUV version of the popular ID.4. It's part of VW's EV onslaught that will see as many as 70 new electric models launched by 2028, with the automaker's overall aim to become completely carbon neutral by 2050. But this isn't the only way Volkswagen is tackling climate change.
Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, where the ID.4 will be built locally in 2022, is the home of one of the largest solar parks in a US auto factory generating renewable electricity. Managed by Silicon Ranch Regenerative Energy, a 9.5-megawatt solar system provides up to 12.5 percent of the plant's electricity at full production, with 33,600 solar modules spread over an area of 33 acres next to the VW factory.
VW's Chattanooga plant employs over 4,000 workers - but not all of them are human. To solve a common problem at the solar park, VW has hired a herd of around 50 sheep, creating new job roles.
To be effective, solar farms need solid ground, but erosion can be a problem. To prevent the ground from eroding, the sheep graze on the grass while fertilizing the soil at the same time. Another benefit is that the sheep can get in hard-to-reach areas inaccessible by traditional mowers. As well as sheep, VW hired some "rescue" donkeys that alert the sheep of any threatening wildlife. Sheep were most suitable for the job because they cause less damage than goats, who often jump on solar panels and chew through cables.
"Adaptive grazing with sheep is an efficient and cost-effective way to control vegetation and minimize erosion risks on utility scale solar facilities," said Loran Shallenberger, Project Manager at Silicon Ranch Regenerative Energy.
"The sheep keep the grasses low via grazing and trampling and the solar panels provide sheep with shade, minimizing heat stress in the height of summer. Regeneratively grazing sheep can help provide important ecological benefits, as well as a secondary and stable source of income for our farming partner."