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Farmers and landowners in the South West should think about the opportunities being presented with the growth in renewable energies.

Sonya Bedford, Head of Renewable Energy at Stephens Scown, says as fossil fuels become more expensive and renewable energy gets cheaper, people could earn an extra income off their land, “Maximising land use to prepare for a future without oil is a very sensible thing to do, especially when subsidies are looking more and more uncertain with 2012 looming.”

The main forms of renewable energy are wind power, hydropower, solar energy, biomass, biofuel and geothermal energy.

She adds; “Renewable energy is ideally suited to rural areas and if you’re looking to diversify, mitigate climate change and earn an extra income then renewable energy may be the way forward. With the continuing and growing Government support for renewable energy, this is a development area that farmers and landowners can explore very seriously.”

By the end of 2009, worldwide wind farm capacity had increased by nearly a third during the year and wind power supplied over one percent of global electricity consumption.

Once the renewable infrastructure is built on the land in whichever form is most suitable, the fuel is free forever. Unlike carbon-based fuels, the wind and sun and the earth itself provide fuel that is free, in amounts that are effectively limitless.

Sonya says, “A wind turbine is now a much more common sight than it was and the wind power operators are on the look out for more and more land that is suitable. Landowners have an opportunity to earn additional income for each turbine they have on their land. Wind farms provide landowners with a regular income, generally for no additional labour or expense, usually for a period of 25 years.

The arrival of feed-in tariffs means there may now be profit to be made by generating electricity through photo-voltaic (PV) panels on barns/houses or commercial building roofs – the same can be said for the generation of electricity through wind turbines.

She adds, “More farmers and landowners are choosing to install their own apparatus, rather than relying on the companies to approach them for installation. The effects of increased generation of electricity will also mean that more farms and estates will be able to be completely self reliant when it comes to their energy needs.”

Biomass, another form of renewable energy, is being used by farmers both as a cash crop and to power and heat the farm itself. Biomass fuel can also include sewage sludge and animal manure and can be a useful way of using a bi-product which may otherwise be difficult to dispose of with the increasing regulations.

Hydroelectricity is generated by the production of power through use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. Micro-hydro can be cost effective if you have a sufficient flow and head of water on your land.

With the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone designations, the requirement for farms to increase slurry storage capacity over the next few years could mean that farmers look to Anaerobic Digestion (another renewable energy source) as an alternative option for manure management. The gas produced from anaerobic digestion can be used to heat or produce electricity.

Experienced solicitors at Stephens Scown are available to guide and assist you in making optimum use of your land. For more help or advice, contact Sonya Bedford on 01392 210700, email s.bedford@stephens-scown.co.uk or visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk

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