Farmers urged to maximise renewable energy opportunity

Investors are queuing up to finance renewable energy projects, and farmers need to act now to capitalise on this demand, visitors to yesterday’s (20 May) Devon County Show were told.

Stephen Palmer, managing director of solar energy company, BeBa Energy UK, said interest from investors and farmers had rocketed since the government announced financial support in the form of Feed-In Tariffs. These guarantee a fixed payment per unit of energy produced for up to 25 years, making wind and solar power financially viable for the first time for many in the UK.

“We have got numerous investors coming to us with money to invest in solar projects,” said Mr Palmer. “We’re looking for people who have got decent roof sizes that they can make money from.” Farmers were ideally placed to capture the sun’s energy from agricultural barns or south-facing fields, with many seeking to fund their own smaller scale projects, he said. “For the next year solar power is a no-brainer for people with large roofs.”

He said farmers could either buy or lease solar panels for their own projects, or rent roof space to institutional investors. “There are lots of options available, and agreements can be tailored to suit individual needs.”

Archie Montgomery, who farms near Yeovil in Somerset, said farmers needed to act now to make the most of higher FiT rates, which would fall over the coming years. “Farmers are sitting on a massive asset but if we’re not careful the whole thing will pass us by.”

He urged farmers to go to their local agricultural shows and speak to renewable energy businesses about the options available. “The Eco-Zone at the Royal Bath & West Show is an ideal place to learn about the technology. I’m hoping that we can soon set up a 35-acre solar panel park as well as 20-30 wind turbines so farmers can come and see it in action. But right now, farmers need to come and speak to these people and find out what’s possible.”