I’m very cross to have missed out on the latest climate change conference.
I could have done with a couple of weeks in Paris. If I’d claimed to be representing Farmers Weekly, I reckon I could have wangled VIP status and flown in by private jet to Le Bourget, and joined the other 40,000 delegates, all of them seemingly unaware of the idea of videoconferencing or, as they loudly condemn the evil use of fossil fuels, irony.
I’d love to have been there, not just for the freebies and luxury hotels, but because I need to have a paradox explained to me. Many farmers seem to be embracing (with varying degrees of conviction) the concept of catastrophic anthropogenic [man-made] climate change (CACC).
Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire.
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The press is full of stories of farmers checking their carbon footprint, or covering their barns with solar panels or the countryside with wind turbines.
TFA meetings are full of grumbles about sensible rents being rendered irrelevant by demand for land to supply anaerobic digesters, and horror stories of historic family farms ending up as “solar farms” – against the tenants’ wishes.
As a fully paid-up CACC sceptic, I’ve felt no urge to embrace “green” energy, even when my landlord suggested that an array of hideous solar panels on the south-facing roof of our beautiful farmhouse would be just right to power the electric AGA we were briefly contemplating.
I could feel the ghosts of previous tenants grimacing at the idea.
There is something even a sceptic like me can do, though.
I’ve been spotted rummaging through the hedges and tracks that border my farm, searching high and low for, would you believe, an electricity substation.
It turns out that if you are lucky enough to find one on or near your farm, and it’s over 33kV, you’re blessed: you can now go “generator farming”.
On a concrete pad (hmm, carbon footprint?), surrounded by a massive earth bund, an array of diesel-powered (yes, diesel) generators are installed and linked to the grid.
Their sole purpose is to switch on and provide back-up power when the national grid is found wanting. They are known as short term operating reserves, or Stors.
The figures (as supplied by Strutt & Parker) are astonishing.
“I could feel the ghosts of previous tenants grimacing at the idea”
The average Stor will supply 20MW, and so will need fifty 400kW generators.
The rents are even more mind-blowing. The rule of thumb is £1,000 to £2,500 per megawatt capacity, so for a 20MW Stor – well, do the sums yourself.
The other good news (assuming you yourself don’t live in earshot) is that they tend to only work at night – probably something to do with the inherent night-time uselessness of solar farms.
And if you do live nearby, fifty grand a year will pay for some serious double-glazing, or even a new house at the far end of the farm.
So, let’s get this right. “Green” farmers all over the country are installing solar panels and wind farms, all designed to save greenhouse gas emissions and somehow stop CACC.
Meanwhile, farmers lucky enough to have a substation handy are installing vast numbers of old-fashioned diesel-powered generators, ready to start-up and belch out greenhouse gases, just to keep the lights on.
It’s a sign of getting old to think the world is getting mad, but this is bonkers. A paradox? No, it’s worse than that – it’s a weapons-grade, ocean-going absurdity. It’s right up there with flying to a climate change conference.