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Farmers signing up in big numbers for green energy

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 05, 2013

Earnings from wind energy generated   £12,000-£50,000, according to a study by  industry body RenewableUK   with NatWest and RBS

Earnings from wind energy generated £12,000-£50,000, according to a study by industry body RenewableUK with NatWest and RBS

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Record numbers of farmers have been expressing interest in wind turbines and solar plants, taking advantage of lucrative subsidies and a new Government tax break.

Renewable energy schemes became a much-needed source of alternative income during a year which saw crop yields decimated and a return to 1980s levels of productivity, the National Farmers Union (NFU) said.

Earnings from wind energy generated between £12,000 and £50,000, an analysis by banks NatWest and RBS in conjunction with industry body RenewableUK revealed.

The NFU's Farm Energy Service, which has just celebrated its first anniversary, says it has already helped 1,550 farms in the UK.

Cornish livestock and potato farmer Richard Thomas, who runs the 900-acre Trevear Farm at Sennen, near Land's End, installed a 35-metre, 80kW Canadian turbine a year ago, which is now powering the dairy with the surplus electricity sold to the National Grid.

Mr Thomas said he had needed to ring the changes after struggling get a return from growing potatoes for years, deciding to invest in a turbine and a potato packing plant

"Our potatoes have now been sold in every Sainsbury store in the country under the Cornish King brand," he said.

"You have to listen to what the market demands and respond accordingly with realism and a plan to take you forward."

Of the enquiries to the Farm Energy Service during the first 12 months, 52% relate to solar and 30% to wind which promises yields up to 25% in blowy areas.

Another boost came in the shape of an increase in the annual investment allowance (AIA) from January, which gives 100% tax relief on investments from £25,000 to £250,000 for the next two years.

Johnnie Andringa, boss of Glasgow-based Gaia-Wind, which has a number of installations in Devon and Cornwall, said the net cost of a £45,000 turbine had reduced to £27,000 for a 40% taxpayer.

And payback time based on the current Feed in Tariff (FiT) drops from 5.3 years to 3.4 years, meaning an outlay previously required for one turbine now pays for two.

Mr Andringa said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for those looking to invest in small wind."

Chartered surveyors Fisher German say 82% of applications for smaller wind turbines, between 5kW and 50kW, are approved, and of the 18% that fail and go to appeal, two thirds are granted.

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said wind power was "helping to preserve rural communities".

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4 comments

  • moliner  |  April 04 2013, 11:01AM

    Dear Mr Ward. Congratulations. You have stumbled across two fundamental truths: 1) we pay for what we want and 2) market forces move the bulk of investment in the capitalist world. The only way to attract investment in the energy we want is to make it viable for investors (come on, I thought everybody knew that). Polls indicate the vast majority of Brits support wind and renewables and are prepared to pay for it. The opposition (mainly overpaid bankers and other City folk with second homes with pretty views) is a vociferous powerful minority, skilled in spin doctory. The rest are Nimbies; sometimes with good arguments. But public consultation and exacting Environment Impact Assessment requirements limit wind development impact. Still, Mr Ward, if you want more CO2/climate change, NOx, CO, sulphur/acid rain and a whole list of other nasties for our grand children, go ahead slamming wind power; the only large scale cheap way to reduce conventional power. In Brazil, wind (which is plentiful and strong and therefore not subsidised) is now cheaper than gas fired power. Give UK's wind sector a few years and it will soon be doing the same. You failed to notice (or at least to point out) that oil, gas coal and nuclear all use bigger subsidies than wind power. But those subsidies are hidden mostly as tax breaks or in pipelines and other tax-paid infrastructures. That's not me saying it but rather the International Energy Agency (IEA), hardly famed for its pro renewables stance!! In contrast, wind power incentives are paid through the electricity bill to link wind prices to overall electricity price dynamics and market forces. Because dirty power does not internalise the overall costs of its emissions, the renewables 'subsidy' is a way of counterbalancing that by internalising the benefits of zero CO2 emissions. Spain's 22GW of wind have been the top producer in the electricity system for the past four months running. No lights have gone out; though lots of gas and 1GW of nuclear have been pushed off the system. That's a helluvalot of savings in CO2 and radioactive residue. Add to that the 40k jobs created by the Spanish wind industry AND the huge tax collections locally it is WIN WIN. That is without considering offsets to huge amounts of fossil imports, which is throwing money at foreign regimes, often very dubious one. Spain, like UK, is an electricity island, with similar grid balancing challenges (though much lower winds). Successfully meeting those challenges to integrate wind has made its grid operator, REE, a world leaders and reference point for big wind power markets like China (indeed, China has gone from negligible wind power to becoming the world's biggest wind market in less than a decade ... wonder why!!). I want UK on the map as a world leader in our planet's energy future. I do not want it to be among the last stubborn dinosaurs of a self-destructive and dying energy era.

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  • sandman18  |  March 10 2013, 8:50PM

    Does this sound familiar ! "Pyramid schemes are based on simple mathematics: many losers pay a few winners". The more they put up the more people have to pay for them in their electricty bills until no one can afford electrcity it then all collapses....

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  • IvorWard  |  March 07 2013, 8:47PM

    You will notice that there is not one mention of saving the planet any more. The subsidy merchants have even given up pretending that they are in it for anything other than money. It is all about "payback times" ; " taking advantage of lucrative subsidies" ; " Feed in Tariff "; "a new Government tax break." Who is really paying for all this? Yes....you are right.......the poor bloody bill payers yet again. More and more people getting into fuel poverty.......24,000, mostly old, people died from cold last year on the Governments own figures yet these subsidy farmers don't see a problem with that. They're all right Jack.

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  • Stork  |  March 05 2013, 6:20PM

    More confirmation, if we needed any, that electricity customers are being fleeced by the new " green " energy schemes !

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