UK farmers have been able to benefit from feed-in tariffs but as the government plans to review the sum paid for solar energy in 2012, now is the time to invest. The British government introduced feed-in tariffs under the guise of the Clean Energy Cash back scheme back in April and was designed as a way of boosting investment in solar photovoltaic (pv) energy which would help the UK meet climate change targets through the reduction of carbon emissions.

The feed-in tariff works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for units of energy both used and fed back into the grid from small scale solar pv generators. Where they have been implemented elsewhere, they have proved to be very effective mechanisms at incentivising investment in what were once expensive projects. However, government plans to reduce the rate of energy paid to solar pv generators after 2012 means that now is the time for UK farmers to take full advantage of the profits from solar panels.

Many landowners are already taking advantage of the tariff rate which guarantees a rate of 29.3p/kWh for units of energy generated from their solar panels. Certainly, with projects lasting for 25 years, there will be some very healthy profits to be made, something which has not gone unnoticed within the industry. Regen South West are just one example of solar energy specialists involved in rural solar projects. Chief Executive Merlin Hyman has described such projects as an ‘exciting opportunity’ and that they can offer,

“Essentially it is a guaranteed income for 25 years with a better return than if you were to put money in the bank at the moment. But it needs to be in the right place and on the right sites.”

The emphasis of finding the right sites has been echoed throughout the industry. Also, there has been a focus on the need to avoid fly by night installers keen to make a quick Buck and run in the great UK solar Klondike.

This is a view supported by solar pv exponents, Mole Valley Farmers who have their own demonstration solar site set up on their director’s land and are offering open day invites. Business Development Manager at Mole Valley, Andy Taplin has warned that,

“We are aware of lots of businesses popping up and calling themselves solar energy experts, what we’re trying to do is prevent businesses profiteering from our members.

Going on to add, “our main concern is that for these investments to work the solar panels need to last for 25 years to profit from the feed-in tariff — Mole Valley Farmers will be here in 25 years’ time, but I’m not sure some of these solar panel companies will be around once the gold rush is over.”

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