A survey published last week has revealed the full extent of the enthusiasm which the British Agricultural Industry has for renewable energy. The research, ‘Farms as Power Stations’ has demonstrated the massive increase in renewable energy generation on British farmland over the last few years and indicates that this level of growth is expected to continue. The role which British Agricultural can play in renewable energy generation is something which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have long appreciated.
The research was carried out in partnership between Nottingham Trent University, Farmers Weekly and Forum For The Future. Around 700 farmers from across the UK participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of those farmers surveyed were utilising renewable energy generation on their land. This is a huge increase on the last comparable survey, carried out by DEFRA in 2010 which found that only 5% of surveyed farmers were generating renewable energy on their land. Such a large and rapid increase demonstrates the great strides the renewable energy industry, particularly onshore wind, has been making over the last few years.
Indeed of those surveyed who did not have some form of renewable energy generation on their land 61% stated that they were extremely likely to rectify this within the next five years; with a majority indicating that small or medium scale wind generation would be their preferred choice. Such keenness is reflected in the reasons given for wanting a renewable development on their land. Whilst expected reasons such as reducing climate change or increasing national energy security were given by many; 71% gave as their primary reason the good financial returns in comparison to more traditional farm enterprises.
The results of the survey were received enthusiastically by those bodies involved in the canvassing as well the wider renewables industry. Professor Eunice Simmons, the dean of Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said:
“It’s very positive news that renewables are becoming more popular with UK farmers – and this trend looks set to continue over the coming years.
Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry body RenewableUK commented:
“This important new research shows just how valuable renewable energy is to farmers at a tough time for crop yields. Farmers have always worked with the countryside and depend on the weather to make their living, and it’s good to see small-scale wind turbines playing their part in this. The UK’s small wind industry leads the world, and there’s a beautiful synchronicity in turbines manufactured in Loughborough turning in fields in Lincolnshire.”
“With 76% of farmers still believing the potential for renewable energy is not being met, it’s clear that there are a lot of opportunities out there for further development. A consistent rate of support for small and medium-sized wind turbines, and consistent and predictable planning decisions, to help our British industry really establish itself, could ensure that even more farmers are helped to make the most of their natural resources”.
The farmers surveyed also provided what they considered to be the top 5 barriers to on-farm renewable energy generation. The major reason given was the high investment costs. It is at this point in time that we would like to point out that we at ILI (RE) do not require our landowners to provide any capital. The next major barrier given was the amount of red tape involved. ILI (RE) handles all of this for our clients allowing them to concentrate on their core businesses. The third major barrier cited in the survey was the planning process. Whilst it is true that progressing a renewable energy development through the planning system can be a time consuming process we at ILI (RE) are vastly experienced in this process and can call on our in-house specialist staff to deal with any hurdles. The fourth major barrier, community opposition, is also something which we have dealt with a number of times; gathering support from the community for a development and directing support towards the planners handling any application. The final hurdle, accessing capital, is again something which is not an issue for our developments.
The results of the ‘Farms as Power Stations’ survey chime with other research carried out in this area. For example, a survey carried out in May of this year found that 95% of British farmers believe that renewable energy will play a key role in the future of British Agriculture. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can only agree with this majority. Having spoken to farmers and landowners up and down the country we understand the importance of accessing the revenue which renewable energy developments can bring in modern British agriculture. Particularly in these times of poor weather and CAP reforms.