One in six farms will have solar installed by summer 2012

Joint research published by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and NatWest has revealed that 30 percent of farmers across England and Wales will be engaged in some form of renewable energy production by the end of the summer.

The report surveyed over 400 farmers in an attempt to discover the role farmers are playing in the current renewables landscape in the UK.

The survey discovered that one in six famers will have a solar photovoltaic array installed by the summer of 2012. A further one in eight farms will install other renewable energy sources leading to one in five farms producing clean electricity.

The results indicated that a higher proportion of farmers in the South of England and Wales are turning to solar PV installations in comparison to the North. The higher solar radiation levels in the South of the country offer greater returns than the North, boosting the electrical output of systems as well as the associated feed-in tariff income. Interestingly, the uptake of wind turbines was similar across the nation, with around 5-6 percent in each area.

Over half of all respondents indicated that gaining planning permission formed the largest barrier to installing renewable energy projects on their land. Accessing suitable finance and DNO connection were also indicated as further pertinent barriers facing farmers and land-owners hoping to go green.

Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture & Renewable Energy at NatWest said: “This report shows farmers are taking notice of the developments in renewable energy and see a tangible benefit for their business. This also shows how the farming industry is playing a key role in helping the UK meet its target of producing 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.

“We’ve already taken steps to help those businesses that see access to finance as a barrier. We’ve ensured our agriculture managers are better placed to help through our accreditation programme in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and endorsed by the NFU. The fact that NatWest came out as one of the top banks for understanding customers is very encouraging.”

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief renewable energy adviser said: “The NFU has been encouraging farmers and growers nationwide across all sectors to diversify into renewable energy for the past few years – but we are amazed at this level of uptake already. The potential of land-based renewable energy to support profitable farming, while contributing to energy security and the low-carbon economy, is evidently much greater than we ever imagined.”

The results clearly show the prominent role that farmers and landowners will play in the future as the nation attempts to shift towards a low-carbon economy by producing 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.