Farmers urged to take advantage of green energy

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Solar panels on farm buildings will be a much more common sight in the Midlands this summer after the Government relaxed planning restrictions.

From April 1 only listed buildings or those in conservation areas will now need permission to put the solar photovoltaic equipment on their roofs.

Previously, those buildings producing more than an ordinary home’s average output of four kilowatt of electricity a day needed the go-ahead from local authorities.

Joint research produced by the National Farmers’ Union and NatWest shows that one in six farms will move over to green energy over the next three months leading eventually to one in five farms producing clean electricity.

The survey revealed that more than half those farmers surveyed said gaining planning permission had been the single biggest factor stopping them going green.

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief renewable energy adviser, said: “The NFU has been encouraging farmers and growers nationwide to diversify into renewable energy for the past few years – but we are amazed at the level of uptake recently.”

Midlands energy expert Ron Fox of Noreus Ltd, said: “It is not surprising that farmers are seeing this as an additional enterprise.

“They can put 100 solar panels on a large outbuilding and wire them up to the farmhouse so they take advantage of green energy to get cheaper electricity in their home and smaller fuel bills.

“Although they will have to pay tax on installing solar panels as it is a business they can claim the capital allowance back because it is classed as equipment and they will also be able to reclaim the VAT,” added Ron

But he said the main benefit was the farmers could also earn up to 10 per cent tax free every year from the Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) scheme, which is tax free, index-linked to retail prices inflation and guaranteed for 25 years

At present the FiT – the money the Government pays people for generating electricity – is paid at two rates.

The Generation Tariff is at 21p per Kilowatt Hour for all electricity generated and is topped up with the Export Tariff, which adds an extra 3.1p per KWh for electricity exported to the Grid.

But he warned that farmers would need to move quickly to take advantage of this as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently announced that the Feed-in Tariffs scheme would be reduced by almost a quarter from 21p to 16p per kilowatt hour (Kwh) from August 1.

At the same time it announced that it is shortening the lifespan of payments from 25 years to 20 years and will now consider cutting the payments even further every three months.

However, Ron said farmers who beat the deadline would be guaranteed those returns over 25 years and they would not lose out even if Feed-in Tariffs were cut in future.

Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture & Renewable Energy at NatWest concluded: “This report shows how the farming industry is playing a key role in helping the UK meets its target of producing 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.”

For more details about how farmers can take advantage of these energy-saving ideas call Ron on 0845 474 6641.


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