One of Northern Ireland’s leading poultry farmers is urging others in the sector to invest in solar energy before Northern Ireland Electricity enforces new rules limiting how much power can be generated.

Currently, it is possible for homeowners to install up to a 6.5kW system for a single installation and 20kW for a larger, three-phase installation, using a simplified connection process known as G83. But once new limits are introduced, these thresholds will be cut to 3.68kW systems and 11.04kW respectively, effective from 1 March.

Fred Maxwell, who has 10 poultry houses holding 270,000 birds in the Clogher Valley, Co Tyrone, has seen his £20,000 annual electricity bill slashed by a quarter since 84 panels were installed at his farm just over a year ago.

“It’s brilliant. You just put it up and walk away. I would say that I’ve made a saving in the past year of about £4,250 on my electricity – and I am still waiting on the ROC payment, which should come soon and should be about £3,000.”

Mr Maxwell has taken the steps to expand his 20kW system, with an additional 6.5kW system on his home. And he is keen to spread the word to other farmers and businesses, encouraging them to take advantage before the new regulations come into force.

According to a spokesman for NIE, the limits are now being reduced in order to ensure compliance with the new electricity safety regulations, to reduce potential effects on the network and to align Northern Ireland’s limits with those across the rest of the UK.

Renewable energy specialist Amber Green Solar says while people hoping to generate power on their own properties will be limited in the amount they can produce, solar PV will become more accessible for people wishing to invest less money for smaller systems.

The company is also expecting an increase in demand for solar installations ahead of the March 1 deadline.

(For all the latest poultry industry news, why not secure a regular copy of “the industry bible”Poultry World.)