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Solar Delivers a Secure Income for Farmers

Guy Smith, vice president of the NFU, has backed a new partnership to explore the relationship between solar farms and agriculture.

Guy Smith was speaking at the launch of the two-year project, which is co-ordinated by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd, Moulton College and the School of Science and Technology of the University of Northampton.

Solar Energy

They are now on the lookout for a suitable post-graduate candidate to lead the research, which will evaluate solar installations as a viable diversification for farm businesses and measure the associated impacts.

Mr Smith said solar farms created new opportunities to grow food and create habitats, while also unlocking extra income for rural businesses.

He said: “Agriculture is always partly about economics and partly about politics. And that's definitely the case with solar farms.

“With more volatile weather and commodity markets, we need to be creating robust business that deliver a secure income to farmers. Renewable energy helps to do that. But politics comes into play as well, as we've seen recently.

“Solar farms give us a new opportunity to grow food and foster good environments for wildlife and pollinators at the same time. On my own solar farm we are creating habitats that are good for bees and barn owls in particular. As farmers we have a responsibility to be imaginative with ecological management.”

The full time Master of Philosophy project will use Moulton College’s own facilities, including a 550 hectare mixed farm, supervision from both the college and the university, as well as working directly with staff from Lightsource, the UK’s leading solar energy generator.

It is ideally suited to someone with a keen interest in agriculture, farm-scale renewable energy and land management.

Conor McGuigan, director of development for Lightsource, said: “We were delighted with the turn out at the launch, demonstrating there is a real interest in exploring the impacts of solar power within the rural economy.

“Moulton College has an established record in pioneering research and we are looking forward to working together in creating the foundations for this study, which we hope will reiterate what Lightsource believes and demonstrates already, that solar power can be a viable and trusted source of sustainable income for the rural community.”

The project - fully funded by the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and Lightsource - is open to those who have, or expect to receive, a first or upper-second class honours degree, or equivalent or an MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline. The minimum English language proficiency requirement for candidates who have not taken a higher degree at a UK HE institution is an IELTS score of at least 6.5.

Dr James Littlemore, senior lecturer in land and environmental management at Moulton College, said: “With farmers and landowners being advised to incorporate energy efficiency into their primary agri-business aims, the need to diversify and include on-farm renewables remains paramount.

“Yet there is a lack of information for rural businesses wishing to explore diversification with solar power. We hope this study will redress that imbalance.”


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