Farm energy pioneers needed

Despite the upsurge in renewable energy generation and drives for energy efficiency on farms, the dependence of British agriculture on fossil fuels is still mildly unhealthy. In the Green Energy Farmer of the Year category for the 2012 Farmers Weekly Awards we want to do something significant to change that.

The green energy industry was nourished from agricultural roots. It’s development pioneered by entrepreneurial farmers who stuck their neck out and invested in renewable energy because it fitted with their business, their geography and their mindset. But during a period when the selling of green energy opportunities is seemingly ubiquitous, this pioneering role often goes unnoticed.

Since then wind farms have shot up, solar panels have marched across the tops of buildings and biomass boilers have nestled themselves into outbuildings up and down the country. This is all well and good, but is it enough?

The early pioneers put down an ambitious marker, but the goal posts have shifted and more work needs to be done.

All three Green Energy Farmer of the Year finalists last year showed that there was a new breed of farm energy pioneer setting the pace. For them energy management was not handled off the side of the desk, when they had time, but was firmly integrated not just into their business, but also the local community and surrounding environment. It is these sorts of businesses that are shifting the goal posts towards a much needed weaning off fossil fuels.

Last year’s eventual winner, Neil Gourlay, who clearly understood the economical, environmental and social dimensions of green energy, was a case in point.

“The green revolution is going to keep people in rural communities and the great thing about wind or hydro is that it can be used on marginal hill land like this and not interfere with food production. It gives us a great sense of enjoyment doing our bit for climate change,” he told the judges.

So what will we be looking for this year? Category judge, Andrew Kneeshaw gets to the nub of the issue. “Just in the same way that a bible printer cannot expect eternal salvation, a renewable energy producer cannot necessarily expect to be regarded as a great environmentalist.  How someone uses energy is arguably more important than the fact that they generate it,” he said.

Whether you’re finding novel ways to conserve energy across different parts of your business, working with your neighbours to get a community energy scheme up and running or building energy infrastructure into the succession plan of your business, we would love to hear from you.

How to enter?
Entering the Green Energy Farmer of the Year category is straightforward. Visit and enter by filling in the online form. If you don’t want to enter your own business this year, perhaps nominate a friend or neighbour whose effort you feel deserves the recognition.

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