Thursday, December 10, 2015

Solar Panel Undergrowth Under Control Thanks to Sheep at Cañada

Originally published 6/18/15

Two ewes take a lunch break
under the shade of the solar
installation atCañada College
Sheep are currently being used to manage the weeds and grass that have sprung up under the solar farm at Cañada College.  This approach is gaining popularity in the solar industry as an effective and environmentally friendly way to accomplish what is commonly known as “vegetative management.”
The Cañada College Solar Farm is situated on about 3.5 flat acres near the entrance of the campus.  It is the first renewable energy project within San Mateo County Community College District. A project of this size and complexity presents a great degree of collaboration in design, construction and long term care. This project, in particular, took many variables into consideration; primary among them are the safety of students and staff, protection and security of the photovoltaic system, environmental stewardship, and renewable energy production value.
“Utilizing sheep for vegetative management of the solar farm is a truly sustainable solution… we are addressing the key components of ecology, equity and economy by leveraging this innovative technique” notes Joe Fullerton, Energy and Sustainability Manager for the District.  As the sheep continue to work on reducing the weeds and grass undergrowth on the site, the solar field continues to offset more than half of the energy need of the campus.

The approximately 200 South American breed of sheep used for the vegetative management of the solar farm help accomplish these goals in a variety of ways. The sheep are busy mowing down tall grass that poses a fire danger to our campus community as well as to the system.  These same weeds and grasses threaten valuable production if they grow so tall as to shade the panels from the power of the sun.  Sheep are also an environmentally sustainable option and are much preferred to using weed abatement techniques such as plastic tarps or herbicides, which could negatively impact the quantity and quality of storm water flows into local streams and waterways.  Simply mowing the site comes with its own set of human and system safety risks as well as environmental impacts. These too are avoided by utilizing sheep for the operation.

Undergrowth before sheep
Undergrowth after sheep
As the Campus and community benefit from this vegetative management technique, so do the shepherd and his flock under the expert care of Mike Canaday, of Living Systems Land Management. The sheep have access to light at night, are protected by a well-trained dog, can drink as much water as they want and find ample shade. Meanwhile Mike and his Coalinga-based organization earn important business to help thrive and continue to offer this valuable service throughout the state.

“Utilizing sheep for vegetative management of the solar farm is a truly sustainable solution… we are addressing the key components of ecology, equity and economy by leveraging this innovative technique” notes Joe Fullerton, Energy and Sustainability Manager for the District.

As the sheep continue to work on reducing the undergrowth on the site until June 2015, the solar field continues to offset more than half of the energy need of the campus.

Cañada Celebrates Solar Farm Completion

Originally published 2/2/15

Solar panels at Cañada College
On December 4th, 2014, the San Mateo County Community College District held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of Cañada College’s new photovoltaic installation. 

The $4.5 million solar project marks the first renewable energy effort undertaken by the District and will offset half of Cañada College’s energy consumption.  More than 4,000 highly efficient panels will produce over one million watts of clean,
renewable energy each year for more than 25 years.

The project, approved by the SMCCCD Board of Trustees in January 2014, includes installation of ground-mounted solar panels on a 3.5-acre site located adjacent to the school’s athletic fields and just above the Farm Hill Boulevard entrance to campus. Cañada College was chosen for the site because it has the greatest exposure to the sun year-round, is adjacent to existing electrical systems infrastructure and is the least visually obtrusive to neighbors.
Ideal project timing with Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, allocates revenue to local education agencies to support energy efficiency and alternative energy projects and provided the District $554,000 in funding and the California Solar Initiative will provide about $870,000 in rebates over a five-year period.
While the solar farm was a large investment, it will benefit Cañada College, SMCCCD, and the atmosphere for the long haul. This ability to produce energy will cut Cañada’s energy bill in half for over 25 years and curb greenhouse gas emissions. With the cost of “on the grid” electricity rising, this is a smart financial move. Furthermore, beyond panel production, solar doesn’t require expensive raw materials like coal or oil. This means that solar farms, once built, have significantly lower operating costs than conventional power plants since their energy source, sunlight, is free. Solar energy does not emit any green house gases and leaves a smaller greenhouse gas footprint. 

Ribbon cutting ceremony
The ribbon cutting ceremony included District, County, City, and College personnel as well as many community and industry partners.

SMCCCD and Cañada College are committed to being responsible members of the community and doing their part to reduce their environmental impact. The District’s efforts are aligned with the nation and state initiatives to increase use of renewable energy. On November 5th, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown called for 50%
of the state’s power to come from renewable sources. In October through December of 2014, the US Department of Energy allocated over 100 million dollars towards driving solar innovation up and cutting cost of solar power down.

Farmigo Comes to SMCCCD!

Originally published 1/23/15

What is Farmigo?

It is an exciting, new way to have nutritious, naturally-grown foods from the best local farmers and producers brought to your campus. No waiting in grocery lines or pushing shopping carts. It’s like signing up for a CSA except monthly commitments are not required and you get to choose what is in your box!

Farmigo offers a variety of products such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish as well as pantry items. Current popular items at SMCCCD include the fresh ravioli, blueberry muffins, eggs, and cheese.


SMCCCD started offering this service to the SMCCCD community recently, on 12/03/14. 
If you would like to place an order, you can place it by Sunday before midnight and the delivery to your campus would be the upcoming Wednesday. (See below for pickup location.)


You will need to log into your campus Farmigo website (see below for each campus link) using Google Chrome/ Safari (Internet Explorer is currently not compatible with website). Create an account, place your order each Sunday night before midnight and pay.


  • A great way to support local farmers and offer fresh and healthy produce at SMCCCD.
  • No ongoing commitmentsno minimum order amount and 100% satisfaction guaranteed. So far, each campus averages about 15 participants per week!
  • Get 20% off on your first order! (Enter Promo Code- FRESH20)

If you have any questions, please get in touch with your college’s organizer. Thank you and the organizers for helping make this a successful program!
Cañada College
Organizer: Debby Joy
Pick Up Date and Time: Wednesday 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: Building 8 - Reception Area

College of San Mateo and District Office
Organizer: Anahi Agular
Pick Up Date & Time: Wednesday, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: District Office front desk

Skyline College
Organizer: Bryan Besnyi
Pick Up Date and Time: Wednesday, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: Building 5 - Mailroom