Farmers risk drop in solar installation cash incentives

Farmers planning to take advantage of cash incentives through large scale solar PV installations need to "lodge their intent soon" to avoid a proposal which would drastically reduce the profitability of their installations.

REsolved Renewables, part of the ADAS environmental and agricultural consultancy group said a Government proposal to reduce the financial benefits available for large solar schemes under the Renewable Obligation (RO) programme would wipe 25% off the RO element of financial return in the first year, from April 1 2013.

It added that a further 13.4% would be cut in 2014 and beyond under the new proposals.

However, farm and renewable energy consultant at REsolved Renewables, Helen Wyman, said if landowners lodged plans before December 1 they would remain eligible for the current rates of return offered by investors which could generate £2,000 per hectare (ha) a year.

Wyman added: “Over winter, the Government is consulting on a proposal to revise down the Renewable Obligation incentives attached to solar schemes larger than 5MW in size. If the outcome is a reduction, landowners will have missed a prime opportunity to maximise their site’s potential. To avoid this they need to register their interest with an approved solar PV provider soon.”

When the Feed-in-Tariff and Renewable Obligation programmes were launched there was a surge in demand for PV on farms located south of a line between Birmingham and The Wash, where sunlight intensity makes the arrays commercially viable, said Mrs Wyman.

She added that as long as landowners were in southern counties, had 15ha of open land and access to a 33kV powerline, they satisfied the basic constraints for a significant solar array on their land.

“The financial benefits of installing solar PV on farmland in southern regions are significant if the land in question is suitable. However the upcoming consultation risks reducing the return on investment and if farmers are serious about looking into solar PV installations I would urge them to get in touch soon,” said Mrs Wyman.

Leigh Stringer

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