Some 30% of farms in England and Wales have wind, solar or bioenergy, which is becoming their largest source of secondary income, according to a survey by the UK Farm Energy Service (NFU) and NatWest Bank.
"The NFU has been encouraging farmers and growers nationwide across all sectors to diversify into renewable energy for the past few years – but we are amazed at this level of uptake already," says Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief renewable energy adviser.
Thus far, agriculture hosts 200 megawatts of power, enough to supply 40,000 households. If the trend continues, 15% of the UK’s electricity could be generated by farms by the end of the decade, which would meet the country’s target in the EU Renewable Energy Directive.
Over half of those surveyed say getting permits is the biggest barrier to renewable energy projects, followed by access to finance and information on systems.
Wheat and pea farmer Caroline Knox, says banks don’t really understand the benefits and regular income provided by the government’s feed-in tariff, reports The Guardian.
"We’ve already taken steps to help those businesses that see access to finance as a barrier," says Ian Burrow, head of agriculture and renewable energy at NatWest.
Another impediment is the uncertainty about feed-in tariffs in the UK. Earlier this year, government was about to pull the rug out from under the tariffs, but that was stopped by a court order and industry uproar.
A dairy farmer says the uncertainly of the changing subsidy rules gives him cold feet, keeping him away from solar. And he’s afraid of public push-back if he puts up wind turbines, says The Guardian. Instead he turned to biogas, where he’s been making over £1,000 a day for four years sending electricity to the grid generated from cattle manure and other waste products.
About 20% of farmers are using solar, 6% wind and the rest are using biogas.
Farms are also a new market for renewable energy systems in the US: