Solar panels on a poultry farm©Tim Scrivener

Solar installations for intensive livestock and poultry units remain a good investment despite falling Feed-in Tariffs, and are almost viable subsidy-free, a renewable energy expert has claimed.

Jonathan Scurlock, chief renewables adviser for the NFU, said at the recent Energy Now Expo in Telford that small-scale solar was “very close to grid parity”.

See also: Read more on power purchase agreements

An installation that was ground mounted and oriented south could meet the energy needs of an intensive poultry unit, for example, with spare electricity to sell to the grid.

Financing

He cited a saving of about 10p/electricity unit when purchasing from the grid, and an estimated 5-6p/unit value on energy sold back to the grid on the best power purchase agreements.

At these prices, he estimated of return on capital of 7.5%, before any subsidy was added.

“It is worth doing already – and it is certainly worth doing while the government is paying you support,” said Mr Scurlock, adding that funding was readily available for farmers.

Policy

“The worry is that, with a general election approaching, there may not be enough policy support,” he sad, suggesting that the solar energy industry should consider becoming subsidy free.

Mr Scurlock also encouraged farmers thinking of installing solar panels in fields to keep in mind the public’s perception. The impact on the landscape would be crucial to maintaining solar’s good reputation.

He pointed to the Solar Trade Association’s “10 commitments to best practice” as a guide. These include encouraging biodiversity on the site, engaging with the community, and committing to return the land to its former use at the end of the solar panels’ working life.