More Farmers Embrace Solar Farms
Author: Lima Curtis
Published: Wednesday, 15 August 2012
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FARMERS are swapping sheep for sunshine as more and more embrace solar power.
A new breed of so-called solar farming is on the up as landowners earn extra cash from their fields.
Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on renewable energy for National Farmers Union (NFU) said: “Most of our farmers are interested in embracing renewable technology, especially now as solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper. In the future we will see a lot more farmers doing this.”
For many farmers who are struggling to make ends meet, harnessing renewable energy is a no brainer and is ideal for farms with an abundance of outbuildings and land.
Dr Scurlock added: “Solar panels can be put on south facing slopes on the roofs of farm buildings, storage sheds, vegetable sheds, livestock buildings. But more importantly farmers can employ duel usage where they can put them in fields and still have livestock or plants there. In fact chickens really like this as the mix between light and shade the panels create is like their natural woodland habitat.”
Cornwall the country’s sunniest county has already seen a rise in applications for solar farms with 12 solar farms up in action, planning permission for 19 granted, and 13 more being processed.
The largest existing solar farms in Cornwall currently have about five megawatts capacity, enough to supply about 1,000 homes.
Alexa Thomas Derrick, business executive at Alternegy, a solar panel distribution company, said she had seen more and more sales made to farmers, and, again, she expected this to increase.
She added the variation in investment made solar attractive, whether a buyer £20,000 to invest or £2million.
Concerns rows of plastic squares could ruin picturesque countryside are brushed aside by Dr Scurlock who says a plethora of initiatives are ensuring this is not the case.
He said: “We are keen to engage with wildlife charities, and developers and farmers install bat boxes and other devices to attract birds and insects to aid pollination and improve wildlife. It is like a mini nature reserve and helps increase biodiversity. The fields can be dual purpose and we ensure there is lots of space between the road and the panels. “
The move will help farms in the sunny South (below Birmingham) become viable again, in a time where more and more bad news stories about the trade circulate.
Dr Scurlock says farmers can expect to make a 10 per cent a year return on their investment, a move that may well help keep their business afloat.
And farmers are certainly using their initiative one Cornish farmer is hoping to install solar panels, so perfectly placed he can still continue to use his precision tractor skills to harvest silage from the fields.
Schemes generating about 50 kilowatts typically cost £60,000 to £70,000,