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Renewable Energy Technologies Come of Age

2014 has seen confidence in renewables investment soar. More and more farmers have taken the plunge and invested in wind, solar and other technologies, or offered leases to developers.

On-farm energy generation has really been taken off now and it’s a trend that is forecast to continue in the New Year.

Victoria Lancaster

Victoria Lancaster

H&H Land and Property’s Renewable Energy expert, Victoria Lancaster, has seen a flurry of activity in the sector in the last 12 months as renewable technologies become mainstream. Her clients across northern England and southern Scotland include both farmers keen to begin generating their own energy and landowners approached by alternative power companies seeking sites for their equipment and offering good rental options.

Victoria said: “In 2015, we are expecting renewables to really come of age, and there are opportunities for both farmers and landowners in the sector.

“This year, we’re seen the first appearance of solar farm developers in the north of England, which has led to a rush for 25 acre sites. This trend is set to continue into 2015 so low-grade land near substations is hot property.

“We’re also predicting that farm scale solar trackers will be big news in 2015. They provide at least 30% more output than conventional solar systems, they are easy to fit and only need an acre of land while offering a very attractive return on investment. They’re a good choice for businesses using a lot of electricity, such as dairies and indoor pig units.”

Farm-scale combined heat and power plants (CHPs) are also set to play a major part in the renewables market in the New Year. This technology uses waste products, such as broiler poultry bedding, to produce energy. Units of 250kW are easy to install and are particularly good choices not only for broiler units but for racing stables, commercial MDF producers and others who have waste wood products.

Similarly, biomass is predicted to play an even bigger part in the renewables revolution in 2015, to heat and provide hot water for a range of land based and other businesses.

In addition to the FIT, the new Commercial Renewable Heat Incentive (CRHI) is worth exploring for business using more heat/hot water than electricity. This option is particularly attractive for enterprises such as farm businesses with holiday cottages and swimming pools, dairies and pig breeders.

Biomass is also a very good option for the broader commercial sector. ‘Hotels, care homes and food producers using hot water, such as cheese makers and other manufacturers should all be considering biomass boilers to give them energy and financial stability into the future’, Victoria said: “Biomass is set for massive growth. If you have two or more buildings that require heating, you can invest in a commercial biomass boiler and escape from reliance on fossil fuels, which is especially welcome news for those in rural areas who rely on heating oil.

“Government heat tariffs, which pay you for the hot water you generate, haven’t fallen as quickly as the industry was expecting. There is still time to benefit from this opportunity and pay back the capital costs of installing the equipment.”

However, farms interested in utilising wind power must now be prepared to deal with even more bureaucracy in order to win planning approval. Despite the greater hurdles to installing wind turbines, these are still a good choice for investment in many cases and can help cash-strapped farmers facing large energy bills to gains some stability.

Victoria said: “If you are considering installing a turbine, it’s vital to pick the right site and have a good argument to present to planning authorities.

Almost 20% of the nation’s electricity came from renewables in recent months*, so they continue to play a vital role in the energy mix.”

One issue on the horizon which could hold back the phenomenal growth in renewables is problems with grid capacity in some parts of the country. The success of the push to create more energy from alternative sources means that parts of the existing infrastructure are not able to cope with the high numbers of small generators feeding into the network. Substantial investment is now needed in order to grow the renewables sector.

Victoria said: “This is the one blot that could hold back the renewables revolution in the year ahead, and the Government needs to invest to create the infrastructure for the future.

“The key message for 2015 is that there is a vast array of different tried and tested renewable energy technologies that are now available. This means that there is something suitable for every farmer and landowner who wants to make the switch. We can advise on the system that is right for you and your business, and help you through the planning hurdles and installation process.”

HH Land

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