As a farmer you probably already know all too well the benefits of producing renewable energy on your farm. Not only can you power your own farming activities with the right setup, before 31 March 2019 you could produce a substantial surplus and sell it back to the grid to claw back the investment and make money.
However, the Government announced it wanted to end the generation part of the feed-in tariff in March 2019. And so they did, announcing that from 31 March 2019 you can no longer sell your renewable energy surplus back to the grid unless you are already registered for the FIT scheme. This means the only benefit now to renewable investment in most cases is being self-sufficient. Reason enough for most.
The biggest challenge in developing renewable energy infrastructure on a farm now then is investing in what works. You of course want to invest right away in the technologies that yield the best return and with sun, wind, farm by-products and energy crops to choose from, it ain’t a walk in the park choosing. Two technologies stand out – solar and anaerobic digestion – because they are suitable for most farms.
Farmers have been harnessing the power of the sun for decades. Small solar panel setups have been used to grow and feed crops and power the lighting in indoor pens since the 1960s. But the development of the technology means it is now more affordable and efficient than ever. You can have panels and modules stretching for acres that can transform a traditional farm into a solar farm.
When not mounted on the ground, solar panels are mounted on rooftops. Farms with masses of indoor space can mount solar panels on rooftops to maximise renewable energy production. Because you can place solar panels on buildings and land every farm can benefit from the technology no matter its size.
If you want to make better use of the massive waste your farm produces, anaerobic digestion (AD) controls the breakdown of organic materials in a digester. The result of which is a methane-rich biogas which can be burned to produce electricity or heat or to create biofertilizer. You can digest manure, slurry, maize, other energy crops, by-products of food production and biodegradable household waste.
Anaerobic digestion is considered environmentally-friendly because it accelerates the degradation of organic materials. Rather than leaving waste to decay in the open air you accelerate the process and contain the methane it creates. Methane contributes to global warming so any technology that catches it is good.
Financing the investment
Solar and AD can yield more than enough energy to power your farm activities with a surplus. Expect to pay £50,000 per quarter acre for solar and up to £20,000 for anaerobic digesters. To create a megawatt size solar farm you will need five acres approximately. The best finance for solar panels and other renewable energies is commercial finance. This will put a lump sum in your account.