Wind energy hailed by Shropshire farmer

February 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Julian Bowers says he believes that renewable energy is an ideal way of helping farmers to bring in extra income.

Plans for building wind turbines have created huge amounts of controversy throughout Shropshire and Mid Wales, with whole communities fighting several proposals across the region.

There are also two plans in the pipeline for solar farms both in Telford and Shropshire, which are planned by councils in order to bring in extra cash into their increasingly stretched budgets.

Mr Bowers, from Cockshutt near Ellesmere, recently won permission to build a new 161ft wind turbine on his 220-acre property.

Generating 60 kilowatts of energy, it passed through the planning process with a minimum of fuss, he said, because it did not directly overlook any nearby houses.

He said: “We are looking at it as an investment.

“Any farm that has dairy or poultry sees very high energy bills.

“Everyone knows that energy is getting more expensive all the time, so big users feel the effect of that.

“If you can limit one of your biggest costs, that’s always going to be an attractive option.”

Mr Bowers added: “Wind power is perfectly clean, and it doesn’t take up any amount of land so you can still farm the area. I think a lot of people are looking to do something with it.

“Everybody thinks they are a good idea – just not in their back garden. But to be fair, at the local parish meeting, everybody was pretty well in favour.

“When you compare them to pylons, which have to be there, they actually look pretty nice.”

Since the beginning of 2013, planning applications have been submitted to Shropshire Council for the installation of 27 turbines on 25 micro-sites across the county, two of which were withdrawn and 12 of which have been given the thumbs-up.

They vary widely in scale, from 39ft in height up to 337ft.

The technology has received the support of the National Farmers’ Union, whose environment adviser Sarah Faulkner said: “Agriculture has a great role to play in keeping the nation’s lights on.

“Energy security is up there with food security in its importance and farmland has a central role to play in providing that security through turbines, solar power and other green energy technology.

“Shropshire farmers can make a major contribution to meet the demand for clean energy, without prejudicing supplies of crops for food or animal feed.”

Money paid back to farmers through the energy feed-in tariff also serves to justify the large initial outlay for construction.

Mr Bowers, who has recently ceased dairy farming in preparation for developing a beef herd, said the self-funded turbine will justify its expenditure in seven years.

With permission in place for the next 20 years, that means that from 2022 it will bring in 13 years of additional profit for the farm.

He added: “You probably wouldn’t invest in agriculture at the moment, you would look at diversification and different income streams that aren’t reliant on what you are already doing.

“If you bought land, then you had bad weather like we seem to be having, you wouldn’t make any more money out of it.

“It would be a long-term investment based on hoping the value of land keeps increasing.

“It’s quite a big investment in the first place, that many people might shy away from. There’s a lot of costs up front. But once your permission is in, your feed-in tariff is set.”

Mr Bowers added: “The beef job will never be particularly profitable. We can keep the business healthy and going forward once we see what the turbines can return.”

Mrs Faulkner added: “The National Farmers’ Union strongly endorses land-based renewable energy which supports profitable agriculture.

“Bioenergy will also help drive investment in food production.”

NFU chief renewables and climate change adviser Dr Jonathan Scurlock said: “The NFU notes that the government has moderated the reduction in financial support originally proposed over the period 2015-2019 for offshore wind farms, and has actually increased support for some other technologies, in a move that should bolster confidence in Britain’s fast-growing renewable energy sector.

“It is also proposing to reduce the support for solar and onshore wind farms more quickly, to reflect the falling costs of these technologies.”

Dr Scurlock added: “We strongly endorse land-based renewable energy which supports profitable agriculture, for example, where farmers own their own renewable energy assets or otherwise benefit from harnessing renewable natural energy resources.

“The National Farmers’ Union would be concerned if there was a political shift in government support from land-based renewables towards offshore technologies, but the full table of future strike prices for renewable electricity shows enhanced support for anaerobic digestion and biomass power, with an overall balance across the portfolio of renewables.”

Dr Scurlock said: “At a time when there is continued public confusion about the impact of low-carbon policies on energy bills, it is important that the government offers consistent, long-term energy policy messages.

“With solar power and onshore wind delivering better value year by year, it makes sense to decrease government support as a measure of their success.

“The key issue for large-scale renewable power generation is that there should be a smooth transition in 2017 from the old Renewables Obligation to the new Contracts for Difference.”

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