NFU Energy offers tips to help farmers ‘go green’

By Andrew Heskin, Partner and ARA specialist

With a growing worldwide commitment to reach net-zero and a drive in the UK to improve energy security, NFU Energy has said there has “never been a better time to develop renewable energy” projects on farmland.

According to Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Renewable Energy and Climate Change Advisor at the NFU, solar energy has ‘bright prospects’ for many farmers, with it being a key target for the diversification of the UK’s energy production.

He said: “The Government’s ambition to increase solar energy generation by up to 500% by 2035 has given a major boost to the industry and could create attractive diversification opportunities for some farmers and growers.”

Exciting prospects for farmers

NFU energy says that farmers and growers have the potential to earn millions of pounds from hosting and developing renewable energy schemes on their land.

However, farmers must work with energy producers to ensure that they do not miss out on opportunities, funding or choose the wrong approach.

Working with specialist grid consultancy, Roadnight Taylor, the NFU is helping farmers to improve their chances of successfully developing schemes and increasing their income potential.

How to maximise your chance of success

To help farmers evaluate the benefits of renewable energy projects, NFU Energy’s Renewable Energy Solutions service and its partners have called on farmers to consider the following:

Be bold – Too many farmers wait for developers to approach them. By this point in time, they will have approached other landowners on the same part of the electricity network, creating competition that reduces the potential income from schemes. If you have a good site, approach developers yourself and sell the benefits of your land.

Land is not everything – Farmers benefit from holding lots of land in areas that are ideal for renewables, but land alone will not guarantee success. Too often, farmers do not consider the common pitfalls of schemes before entering into them, reducing their income from investments.

Negotiate – Securing a viable grid connection offer is fundamental to developing a renewable energy scheme, and yet the industry average grid application success rate is only 15 per cent. NFU Energy and Roadnight Taylor’s partnership claims a success rate of around 85 per cent – five times higher than the average. Farmers, therefore, need the expertise to negotiate the best deal.

Keep control – Many renewable energy schemes look you into an exclusive relationship, which reduces your negotiating power and could leave you out of pocket if the developer loses interest or goes bankrupt. NFU Energy recommends that farmers confirm a secured grid connection offer before selecting a developer.

Worried about your other income?

Many farmers are often confirmed that giving over land to renewable energy schemes could reduce the overall effectiveness of their holding, preventing them from rotating crops or grazing livestock.

However, NFU Energy says that most schemes are now developed in ways that minimise their impact on productive agriculture.

This includes avoiding the best and most versatile land and maximising land-sharing opportunities that enable farming to continue alongside schemes.

The NFU’s Jonathan Scurlock added: “Renewable energy developers have come a long way in the last decade, and the majority now actively seek ways to deliver co-benefits such as sheep grazing that help to minimise the potential conflict between energy security and food security.”

Want to learn how diversifying your farm operations into renewable energy schemes could support your income? Speak to our team today.