You may or may not know that agriculture is, in fact, one of the most innovative and energy-intensive sectors there is. And in such a competitive industry, embracing innovation and new ideas can help farmers get the edge over their competitors. Like in so many industries, finding ways for businesses to reduce costs and create capital is imperative if they want to survive, and in the agriculture sector, many farmers and landowners have looked to renewable energy to do this.
Because many farms grow crops, it makes sense that they choose areas of the UK which receive a lot of sunlight. And for this reason also, it makes sense to utilise solar panels in these areas.
The benefits to farmers are numerous, the most significant of which is saving them costs on their overheads. Research has suggested that energy-intensive dairy farms could save up to 33% on their electricity bills by converting to solar power. The energy they produce can be used directly for heating, lighting, water pumps and electric fences.
If farmers are prepared to think bigger, they are able to install large solar arrays which they can receive incomes from through the UK’s feed-in tariff, which, although not as generous as it once was, can certainly raise a fair amount of capital.
And it doesn’t have to affect current farming practices. Installing a solar array still allows fields to be utilised, where animals can graze underneath, and certain plants that don’t require huge amounts of sunlight can still thrive, such as asparagus.
Utilising solar power also relieves the concern of unstable energy prices, as being ‘energy-secure’ can help farmers when energy prices rise. With good energy-efficiency measures, both small and large farms can protect themselves from potential energy price increases, with the prospect of supplementing current revenues through renewable energy.
Because larger solar arrays can have high upfront costs, the likes of a purchase power agreement (PPA) are put in place by the government to offer the benefits of renewable solar energy with lesser costs to those involved.
A PPA is a ‘free solar’ proposition that offers credible companies long-term financial, accounting and eco benefits that involves two separate parties. One business, in this case the farm, generates the solar energy and the other business purchases it for a lower rate than their current energy supplier, meaning both parties reap the benefits.
A farm in north Wales recently claimed to have saved around £10,000 on their yearly electricity bill through utilising solar panels on their roof. David Jones, managing director of Hafod Renewables, whose company installed the solar panels explained how the farm has been benefiting from the solar power, saying “we’ve installed a monitoring system to show when the periods of maximum generation are so they can schedule water heating and other power-heavy work. They’re making money and helping save the planet as well.”
By utilising the power of the sun, farmers needn’t have to rely on energy companies providing them with all of their electricity needs, but can work towards energy independence. Whilst this is a great incentive for the benefit of their business operations, reducing their carbon footprint is something we can all be happy with.