UK: Farmers helping UK reach renewable energy target

AROUND a fifth of UK farmers will be producing renewable energy by this summer, a survey has found.

Almost a third of farmers and growers are involved in some form of renewable energy production and supply, contributing to an EU Renewable Energy target of 15%, the research, by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and NatWest, has found.

One in six farmers will have installed solar PV capacity by this summer, the study revealed.

Farmers in the East of England and the Midlands have a 5% uptake of wind turbines which is consistent with the rest of England and Wales.

The report, which is the first ever conducted by the NFU in partnership with NatWest, surveyed more than 400 farmers about the take up of renewable energy production and generation.

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The study indicates that farmers and landowners can play a leading role in renewable energy as they recognise the benefits of reducing both their reliance on fossil fuels, reducing costs and providing a positive environmental impact.

Tim Pratt, farm manager at Wantisden Hall Farms near Woodbridge, is among the farmers taking part in the farm renewables revolution.

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Eight shareholders in 3Ms, or Three Musketeers, a marketing and supply management company in the Suffolk Coastal area, have invested in an anaerobic digestion plant and are in the process of taking it from half a megawatt to three and a half megawatts in a bid to produce both fuel and fertiliser - two inputs which have proved prone to price volatility and big rises.

“It’s a nice way to guarantee your fertilisers,” he said.

The AD plant will run a number of the farmers’ stores, and they will be converting more and more farm buildings over to it, he said. Although it involved a big investment, he felt it had been worth it. Ian Burrow, head of agriculture & renewable energy at NatWest said: “This report shows farmers are taking notice of the developments in renewable energy and see a tangible benefit for their business.

“This also shows how the farming industry is playing a key role in helping the UK meet its target of producing 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.”

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief renewable energy adviser said: “The NFU has been encouraging farmers and growers nationwide across all sectors to diversify into renewable energy for the past few years – but we are amazed at this level of uptake already.”

Of those with no solar or wind projects, 34% believed access to finance was a barrier but less (24%) farmers who are involved with solar and wind projects thought so, the study found.

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