Solar energy has particularly bright prospects thanks to current and future high energy costs, there is now a real opportunity to benefit from cost savings and income streams in a much shorter timeframe. According to Jonathan Scurlock, chief renewable energy and climate change advisor at the NFU, “The Government’s ambition to increase solar energy generation by up to 500% by 2035 has given a major boost to the industry creating attractive diversification opportunities for some farmers and growers.”
Farmers and growers have the potential to earn millions of pounds from hosting schemes on their land. However, the development process is not straightforward, and it can be easy to miss out on opportunities, select the wrong partner or leave money on the table.
NFU Energy has partnered with specialist grid consultancy Roadnight Taylor to help farmers and growers maximise their chances of successfully developing schemes and their income potential.
Hugh Taylor, chief executive officer at Roadnight Taylor says, “Land is a non-negotiable requirement for renewable energy schemes, which puts many farmers in an enviable position.
However, land alone won’t guarantee success, and too often we have seen farmers disappointed because they weren’t aware of common pitfalls that could easily have been avoided.”
NFU Energy’s Renewable Energy Solutions service is designed around three key success factors to help farmers and growers avoid the pitfalls:
- Be proactive. If you wait to be approached by a developer, it’s likely they will also be approaching other landowners on the same part of the electricity network, who may end up competing with you for scarce capacity. NFU Energy helps you get on the front foot.
- Use experts. Securing a viable grid connection offer is fundamental to developing a renewable energy scheme, and yet the industry average grid application success rate is only 15%. By contrast, NFU Energy and Roadnight Taylor’s success rate is around 85%, over five times better than the average.
- Retain control. Signing up with a developer too soon can lock you into an exclusive relationship – even if the developer loses interest or goes bust – and reduces your negotiating power. NFU Energy’s service enables you to wait until you have secured a grid connection offer before selecting a developer, which puts you in a much stronger position.
James Hollands, one of the directors at Speedgate Farm in Kent, is working with NFU Energy and Roadnight Taylor to develop a renewable energy scheme. He says, “The support we’ve had from NFU Energy and Roadnight Taylor has been fantastic. They’ve given us full confidence in the process and have been instrumental in helping us secure a viable grid connection offer and select the right developer to build out the scheme.”
Of course, it’s vitally important that renewable energy schemes are developed in ways that minimise their impact on productive agriculture.
For the NFU this means avoiding the best and most versatile land as far as possible and maximising land-sharing opportunities that enable farming to continue alongside schemes.
The NFU’s Jonathan Scurlock says, “Renewable energy developers have come a long way in the last decade, and the majority now actively seek ways to deliver co-benefits such as sheep grazing that help to minimise the potential conflict between energy security and food security.”