Posts tagged with: Sonya Bedford

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 or visit

With many South West farmers looking to capitalise on the opportunities from renewable energy, Sonya Bedford from Stephens Scown looks at some of the key considerations you should make before rushing into an agreement for a solar park:

  • Despite relatively tight timescales, don’t give into pressure and make sure you take proper professional advice before entering into a binding agreement.
  • Be aware that some terms on offer are quite miserly – we’ve seen an option fee as low as £100 quoted. The commitment will be for a 25 – 50 year Lease (or possibly even an outright sale) and should not be entered into without proper remuneration.
  • Bear in mind that it’s desirable not only to receive a simple rent under a Lease for your land, but also to obtain a share of the revenues from the sale of electricity generated on the site. You may also be able to negotiate an electricity supply for your own property, often for no cost.
  • Be aware of any other development you might want to carry out on your land. Often leases and option agreements will include restrictions on developments adjacent to the site and which could have an effect on the performance of the solar PV arrays.
  • Ask who will remove the equipment at the end of the lease and to what extent will it be removed at all?
  • Seek professional advice about the potential tax implications. You may already have plans for mitigating Inheritance Tax, but granting an Option for a ‘solar park’ will impact on that, with reference to (where you are a farmer) the removal from agricultural use of some of your land.
  • Consider the implications on any stewardship schemes you have in place – consent from Natural England will need to be obtained
  • And if your land is mortgaged to a bank you will need to get consent to enter into long leases or sales.

Having said all this, there are exciting opportunities in the Westcountry where the solar resource is at its greatest and such opportunities should be seized, with a view to converting them into a 25 year income stream.

Sonya Bedford is Head of Renewable Energy at Stephens Scown. Visit to download a specialist guide to solar energy for farmers or call 01392 210 700.

Firm focuses on renewable energy sector with new team

A Westcountry law firm has created a new dedicated team to provide specialist advice on the renewable energy sector for the region’s farmers, land and property owners.

With the rapid growth in this market and the South West designated the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area, Stephens Scown has taken the step of appointing Sonya Bedford (pictured) as its new Head of Renewable Energy.

The specialist group, made up of experienced property, corporate and planning lawyers, are able to give legal advice on a range of matters including agricultural tenancies and compensation for loss of farming activities, options, leases and contractual issues.

The announcement comes as the firm, which has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell, launches a new specialist guide on solar energy, aimed at farmers and landowners, available on its website.

The sector is estimated to contribute around £215 million to the economy every year – many farmers and landowners are being approached by renewable energy providers and might be considering diversifying or supplementing their income, following the introduction of feed-in tariffs earlier this year.

Commenting on the new team, Sonya Bedford said, “Increasingly we’re acting for clients with a really diverse range of needs in the renewable energy sector – this includes local farmers and landowners, domestic property owners, major wind farm developers and operators, as well assisting villages or communities across the region to install wind turbines or solar panels. We are also involved in advising on property issues surrounding the Wave Hub site in Hayle.”

She added, “Working with local planning experts, accountants and other financial advisers, it makes sense to bring together all our expertise in one place to provide a more rounded service for clients. Here in the South West, because of our geographic position we’re really lucky to be able to harness the natural energy that surrounds us and renewable energy is ideally suited to rural areas.”

Sonya is an experienced senior agricultural and commercial property lawyer and is a member of Stephens Scown’s rural team. She is a Member of the Agricultural Law Association, a member of Regen SW and a Professional Member of the CLA and Member of Women in Property.

She added, “Landowners can reap the financial rewards that renewable energy brings but it’s equally important that people get the right advice to protect their assets. It’s a development area that many people are starting to explore, but can be easily caught out by the small print or enter into agreements without seeking proper professional advice.”

For more help or advice on renewable energy, contact Sonya Bedford on 01392 210700 or email or visit

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September 28 2010

For more information contact:

Ryan Martinez
Deborah Clark Associates
Tel: 01208 77900