Many farmers have considered solar PV over the last two years, some have gone ahead, usually with arrays of up to 50kW.
But not all have sat back to consider whether renewable energy is the right option for their farming business; would energy efficiency measures bring greater initial returns?
If renewable energy is a worthwhile investment - and few other investments will offer such worthwhile returns or equivalent tax advantages - then what is the right technology, and at what scale?
Usually farm-scale investments - installing one or more wind turbines rather than leasing land for a wind farm - will bring farmers a much higher proportion of the returns, though at higher risk.
Similarly, in many cases a larger wind turbine will not only be more effective than a small wind turbine, but will offer a better return on capital, despite the lower FIT (feed-in tariff) rates.
Sometimes it is worth working in collaboration with other farmers, or with the local community, to increase the scale of the investment; it may even be worth borrowing more money.
The return from renewables are largely derived from FITs (feed-in tariffs) whereby farmers can earn money for every unit (kWh) they generate, whether they export it to the grid or use it themselves.
If electricity generated can be used on the farm, it displaces imported electricity at 8 - 10p per kWh; if it cannot be used on the farm, but is exported to the grid, a small export tariff is payable.
For larger scale investments, it may be possible to secure contracts to supply electricity to other users, or direct to electricity companies, and the income from exports can be more than doubled.
Eurinco (and FarmREO) urge farmers not to focus solely on the generation tariffs, but to consider the full range of incentives in assessing the long-term returns on renewable energy investments.
To help farmers and landowners to assess the renewable energy options in their farm situation, Eurinco is now working with four other agricultural consultancy firms to offer independent integrated advice under the name 'Farm Renewable Energy Options (FarmREO for short)
The Renewable Energy Directive
(DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC - promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources)
The RED sets ‘appropriate and achievable objectives’:
20 % target for the overall share of energy from renewable sources and
10 % target for energy from renewable sources in transport (biofuels)
The framework includes mandatory targets to provide the business community with the long-term stability … to make sustainable investments in the renewable energy sector
reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels and
boosting the use of new energy technologies.
‘agricultural material such as manure, slurry and other animal and organic waste for biogas production …
high greenhouse gas emission saving potential, significant environmental advantages … heat and power production and as biofuel … and
offer farmers new income opportunities.’ (12).
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