Suffolk: Solar energy gives better return than the banks, claims farmer

A solar panel farm has been proposed alongside the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula.

A solar panel farm has been proposed alongside the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula. - Credit: Archant

FARMING bosses have said more of Suffolk’s agricultural land could be used to generate green energy as a way of boosting income.

The claim comes after proposals for more than 100 ground-mounted solar panels on farm land near Newmarket were submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Ronald Davison, of the High Elms Partnership at High Elms Farm in Cowlinge, said the 108 photovoltaic panels would earn an income over the next 25 years and could be especially valuable during a bad year.

He added: “We were looking for something to invest in that will give a better return than the bank. Also I believe, possibly in time, the EU will require us to offset CO2 emissions from machinery like tractors.

“It will earn me an income over the next 25 years, which if we have a bad year will help the bank balance. It gives me a bit more protection outside the core industry.”

Mr Davison said it is possible that more farms will turn to green energy in the future.

He added: “I’m sure farmers will look at different things and I think it will gradually become more common, but I’ve got a particular reason for doing it at the moment and I don’t think most farmers are in that position. I also don’t think most farmers are near enough to the power supply to do it or interested enough in it.”

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According to documents submitted to St Edmundsbury planners, the panels would be put in a field to the south east of a barn. There are no neighbouring properties to overlook the site.

Mr Davison, who is part of Linking Environment And Farming (Leaf) – a scheme to promote sustainable food and farming – said: “It will mostly provide on-site energy, but we will also be exporting to the grid.

“We’ve already got some panels on the grain store roof, we run a farm here and a business. We’ve got 18kw of capacity on the roof and this will bring us in another 50kw.”

A spokesman for the NFU said there were opportunities for farmers to explore.

He added: “I certainly think there is scope for farms to be net generators of energy and there is great potential for renewable energy on farms, not just solar panels but also possibly wind energy, bio mass, anaerobic digestion, all sorts of areas.

“I think farms are well placed to explore the right renewable energy projects for their particular farm.”

He added: “With opportunities and potential for farms, obviously you know it’s very important that they are there for food production and also for the environment, but we do think there is potential there for renewable energy as well. There are exciting opportunities out there.”

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