Sunday, 7 November 2010

Farmers rush for solar panel riches

Worthy Farm in Somerset is well known for setting records.

It plays host to the Glastonbury music festival - the largest in the world.

Now, one of its cowsheds is set to become the UK's largest agricultural solar array, benefiting from the governments new feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards people for generating solar power.And it is unlikely to be the last.

But as farmers around the country rush to take advantage of the scheme, the government is considering lowering the subsidy as part of the Spending Review.
On-farm solar

The tariff is designed to reward people for installing renewable energy by paying for the electricity they generate.

It pays up to four times the retail cost of electricity, whilst also allowing the power to be used for home appliances.

Or, as is the case here, for a dairy farm.

For Michael Eavis, owner of Worthy Farm and host of the Glastonbury festival, it is the perfect opportunity.
Mr Eavis's solar roof should generate enough power for about 40 homes.

Unusually, it is built using solar panels made in the UK by a local firm, Solar Sense.

"We've seen a 200% plus growth in inquiries and resulting business since February," says their director Kerry Burns.

"It's difficult for a company to keep up with."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

If they touch the feed-in tariff, you can forget about private sector funding for renewables”

End Quote Ray Noble Renewable Energy Association

But the money, like much of the expertise for the new industry, is coming from Continental Europe.

Dutch ethical bank, Triodos, has extensive experience with similar tariffs in Spain and Germany and has provided £500,000 to this project.

The bank is aware of the pitfalls. Spanish tariffs had to be changed due to their generosity.
Funding worries

But the money to fund all this ultimately comes from energy bills, not the government.

Some energy experts, such as Professor David Newbury from the University of Cambridge, argue this is the wrong way to fund a scheme that generates little electricity for the grid.

"It's essentially research, and I'm not sure that the right way to finance research... is a tax on electricity consumers, many of whom are poor," he says.

The latest Ofgem figures show a dramatic pickup in demand, with more than 10,000 installations since the scheme started.

Most are small domestic projects, but larger farm-based schemes are due to be installed, and so claiming the guaranteed payments, during spring.

The scheme was only launched in April, with cross party support, but the government has now confirmed it will be subject to the Spending Review, with a view on its impact on bills.

With projects already underway, this has sparked fury in the industry.

"If they touch the feed-in tariff, you can forget about private sector funding for renewables," says Ray Noble from the Renewable Energy Association.

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1 comment:

Edward said...

This is the most common reason that people seek out solar panels for their homes or businesses.

Solar Panel