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NFU praises renewable energy boost from solar power innovators


The NFU believes the first 16 large-scale solar farm projects, installed just days before the government deadline for incentives ran out, will contribute a remarkable 46.3 megawatts of power to the national grid. 

A further six solar parks have also started generating power on brownfield sites, adding another 12.9 megawatts.

Chief renewable energy adviser for the NFU Jonathan Scurlock believes that Britains newly-installed solar farms and parks together will generate electricity for around 12,000 households.  With the national renewable energy target set at 15 per cent by 2020, these solar parks will form part of the overall low-carbon energy package for the UK, while also contributing to energy security at a local level.

The enthusiasm shown by the UKs solar power innovators shows the substantial market potential of the land-based sector to supply renewable electricity and support the growth of low-carbon technology in Britain, even under the toughest financial conditions and working to tight government deadlines, said Dr Scurlock.

Details are still emerging on exactly how many solar farms were successful in commissioning and registering to receive the renewable electricity Feed-In Tariff before government incentives were reduced on August 1.

As expected, the sunny South West has the greatest concentration of solar farms so far, with over 16 megawatts of capacity, but the East Midlands region has managed a close second place, with nearly 14 MW added.  As of June 2011, Britains solar-generating capacity was about 122 MW, mostly deployed on domestic rooftops, so these ground-mounted solar installations are adding almost 50 per cent to solar energy production.

Farmers have got firmly behind the renewable energy march, helped by the Feed-In Tariffs introduced in April last year. Some of these projects have been executed directly by NFU members, while others were built by developers who have rented the space on 25-year terms from the landowners.  The NFU understands that a few sites have been unable to complete their final planned capacity in time, but may be able to use a legislative grace period to finish construction by September or October. 

  • At least 16 large-scale solar electricity projects have been completed on agricultural land. These are typically 1-5 megawatts of electrical generating capacity, spread across about 3-12 hectares of field space. The land may remain in agricultural use for sheep grazing or poultry or it may be managed for the benefit of biodiversity and the environment.
  • Rooftop solar power systems on agricultural buildings already account for an estimated 2-3 megawatts in addition to the solar parks. The NFU knows of at least 25 such schemes, and installations under 50 kilowatts will continue to receive an attractive tariff of 32.9p per kilowatt-hour at least until April 2012.


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