We are completely reliant on energy as farmers, from powering machinery and lighting sheds, even just moving around the farm, energy is indispensable. However international oil prices have quadrupled in the last ten years, and coal and gas prices more than doubled, and further increases are expected. There are also long term energy supply challenges as fossil fuels are used up, therefore as farmers and growers we need to take action to cushion the impact of these twin factors.
This month therefore we will be looking at energy generation, and how it can give you higher energy security, lower energy prices, lower carbon emissions and an additional income stream to the farm. Farming is inherently by its very nature energy intensive. Generating your own energy can give you control over price and the ability to forecast costs and introduce additional income to the farm business.
Renewable energy covers all energy from a source which is naturally replenished when used. The main sources of renewable energy are – energy from sunlight, heat from the earth, air or water sources, plants grown for fuel (biomass or biofuel), waste and the movement of water (hydro) or wind.
What do I need to consider?
Before installing a particular technology on-farm there are various factors that are useful to consider.
• Consider your energy use – what gets used and where?
• Wherever possible, reduce your energy demand through energy efficient measures before considering installing renewable energy technologies
• Identify any opportunities or constraints to renewable energy on your site
• Check with the local planning authorities whether there are any planning issues
• Seek independent advice
• Speak to others who have already installed generating equipment
• Choose technologies based on suitability and fitness for purpose rather than the promise of additional income
• Get quotes from different installers
On-farm renewable energy options
Renewable energy can provide power (electricity) for lighting, machinery and appliances and direct heating or cooling for sheds, farm buildings, grain storage and offices. All installations should be carried out by MCS accredited companies (Government approved installers) and the installer's financial and energy generation projections examined carefully before committing to a project.
We cover farm-use scale projects below, but we as farmers are in a unique position compared to other industries, in our ability to consider large scale projects on our land. Such projects (typically over 2MW in capacity) are technically, financially and legally distinct from smaller scale projects and require detailed, tailored advice.
• WIND – currently we have 4570 onshore turbines, equating to a onshore capacity of 7534 MW (Renewable UK)
• SOLAR PV – In August 2014 the UK reached 5GW installed capacity with the south west the leading region in terms of capacity (Regen SW)
• AD - There are now over 100 AD plants (that are outside of the water industry) that are operational (WRAP). This figure is growing rapidly.
• Renewables share of electricity generation was 16.8% in 2014, up 0.9 percentage points on the share in 2013 (DECC)
So for the rest of this month, we will be looking at various issues concerning renewable energy generation on-farm, hearing from a couple of familiar faces from FCCT who generate at home, and looking at the future in terms of where we go from here. For more information on the different technologies, do have a look at the FCCT Toolkit pages here.