Friday, May 31, 2013

More farmers look to invest in solar units

Farmers are becoming increasingly won-over by renewable energy schemes for cheaper energy bills and extra sources of income.
Increasing numbers of farmers in Devon and Cornwall are considering wind and solar schemes, says insurance company Cornish Mutual.
The firm reports more farmers enquiring recently about insurance implications of wind turbines and solar panels on agricultural land.
Les Partridge, of RW Partridge & Son farm, near Crediton, said: "Renewable energy schemes are cost-effective for farmers, they run well, and are easy to install.
"It's difficult to predict how many more farmers might choose to have them on their land as they look at ways of diversification."
Some 200 farmers attended recent seminars in Wadebridge and Exeter where they asked about best practice and choosing the right product to develop a renewable energy site.
Sonya Bedford, head of renewable energy at Stephens Scown LLP, said: "Having worked with over 200 landowners through the region on renewable energy projects, Stephens Scown has seen solar, wind, biomass, hydro and community projects all contributing to the fantastic energy figures that the South West is now producing.
"There are still many opportunities for landowners to generate electricity from renewable energy sources and to reduce their carbon footprint and the solar gold rush shows no sign of abating."
The figures come as countryside campaigners fear hundreds of projects in the planning pipeline across both counties will destroy landscape. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says concern is now mounting about solar farms after its past opposition to wind farms.
A spokesman said: "CPRE's members and supporters are increasingly concerned about the size and scale of some proposed solar parks, and the impact they could have on the landscape. Applications that would take high grade agricultural land out of productive use are particularly concerning."
But supporters of renewables maintain the schemes are the way forward to try to hit ambitious green energy targets of producing 15% of total energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Bob Meier, energy and renewables senior manager at Francis Clark said: "It is great to see the growing engagement from the agricultural community and the recognition of the considerable opportunities available from renewable energy deployment."
Paul Mahon, head of business development for Cornish Mutual, said: "There appears to be a lot of farmers and landowners in Devon and Cornwall actively looking into renewable energy options right now. And we certainly expect to see more developments across the region over the next few months."