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Farmers follow the herd
An increasing number of farmers are embracing renewable energy schemes with a potential return on investment of more than 10%.

With income for farmers dropping as commodity prices have plummeted, the farming community has been forced to look for new ways to make money.

There has been a massive surge in interest among the UK’s farmers since the Government introduced new subsidies – Feed in Tariffs (FITs) – last year. Even changes brought in earlier this year have made little impact on farmers as most of the schemes under consideration are small and medium sized and well below the 50kW mark identified by the Government for proposed cuts in tariffs available.

With returns of 10% or more on investment, installing some form of renewable energy generation – most commonly solar panels or wind turbines – is seen as a secure investment by the farming community. Across the UK, more than a third of farmers are believed to be considering investing in renewable energy schemes.

Eco Environments said interest from farmers has “gone through the roof” in the past six months.

David Hunt, a director with Eco Environments, said: “The interest from the farming community in the past six months has been phenomenal.

“We are currently speaking to dozens of farmers in England and Wales who have either given the go ahead to a renewable energy project or are seriously considering one. Renewable energy for farms is one of the fastest growing areas of our business.”

Tom Hind, head of economics at the National Farmers Union, said in an interview earlier this year: “Investment in renewables and developing new income streams from land and buildings is part of the defence against volatile commodity prices.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU’s chief adviser on renewable energy, said: “Farmers are extremely interested in diversifying and this is completely compatible with the traditional business of a farm.”

The average barn roof could generate as much as £5,000 of income a year if electricity-generating solar panels are installed. Larger field-based projects of 50kwp have the potential to generate income/savings of more than £15,000 a year.