Energy-saving solar power sparks interest at uplands farm event

Friday 14 December 2012
Energy-saving solar power sparks interest at uplands farm event

Energy saving must be at the forefront of farmers’ minds at the moment judging by the turn-out at Myerscough College's most recent resource efficiency demo event for the RDPE Northwest Livestock Programme.

Thirty farmers came along to The Hill at Higher Tatham,near Wray, Lancaster by kind permission of Andrew Staveley and family, to look at the different options for supplying electricity and water to the dairy farm. A variety of speakers were also present to give a good overview of the practical ways in which farmers can make savings at their own farms.

 Energy event 2012 3

Solar Power

Andrew recently installed solar panels on some of his barn roofs and is already seeing savings. As the panels were installed before the feed-in tariffs changed (installed July 2012) Andrew has maximised the returns that he is getting from the energy generated by the solar PV (photovoltaic).

To date the farm has generated over 2,500 kWh of electricity and is expected to produce over 8,500 kWh in total over the year - almost a fifth of his total usage (54,000kWh).

This power can be used on-farm to reduce the amount of mains electricity that Andrew needs to buy in, and in addition he is also paid a tariff for generating the power. Any power not used on farm can also be exported back to the grid for further income.

Peter Hitchen and Andrew Ronan, from Solar Power PV Ltd who installed the panels at The Hill, spoke to the group about the various factors which must be taken into account when deciding whether or not solar PV is a viable option for your own farm:


Energy event 2012 11)      Electric supply

What is the location of the incoming service and the distribution around the site?

Is it a three phase or single phase supply?

Where is the nearest transformer and what is the condition of the cabling?


2)      What are the current daytime electric demands on the site?


3)      Where are the suitable locations for the PV array?

This is dependent on roof mounting, aspect ( ie south/south east or south west), the structure and roof finish and the age of the suitable roof.

How close is it to the incoming electric supply?

Are there any suitable locations for a ground mounted installation as an alternative?


4)      Planning requirements

Is the farm building in an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) or National Park location?

Are there any listed buildings on the site?

Will the array be highly visible?


5)      Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

This will be necessary on any habitable property that cannot be isolated from the solar generation. Level D will be necessary to claim the higher tariff. Old farm houses will generally fail without significant upgrading in performance.


6)      Electric North West (G59/G83) submissions are necessary for systems above 10 kWp on 3 phase and 10kWp single phase.

This can take 50 days but may be shorter depending on the circumstances.


7)      Summary of the current tariffs

Financial benefits ended the talk with example /typical quotes for a 30 kWp installation. Advice provided on limiting the system size to avoid the need for a costly export meter.


If anyone would like to contact Peter Hitchen for further information on design and installation of solar PV his contact number is 01254 823885.



DairyCoUnfortunately our water expert Chris Coxon from DairyCo was unable to attend due to illness so the main points from the presentation he supplied are summarised below:










Boreholes can cost from £5000 up to £18000 depending on the drilling depth and also the distance from buildings and electricity supply etc. A few of the farmers at the event had boreholes on their own farms and commented that the savings made greatly outweigh the cost of installation and will soon pay for themselves. However water quality can be variable and is not always suitable for plant washing (must be potable).


SAC logo NEWEnergy – electricity and diesel

Ruth Kendal from SAC finished with a look at the two main forms of energy used on farms, electricity and diesel, using The Hill as an example.


Steps to managing your energy consumption:

Energy Event 2012 2a)      How much do you use?

b)      Where and when do you use energy? In order to reduce usage you need to find out which processes are using the most energy and when.

c)       How much does the energy cost? Are you on the right tariff for your usage and are you getting the best deal from your supplier? If you want to change supplier how long is the notice period that you need to give?

d)      How can I reduce energy usage?

e)      Can I use a cheaper source of energy?


Energy audit

This will help to determine how much energy you are using and where. By recording and monitoring energy usage this will help you to identify any changes in consumption promptly eg. if a timer switch isn’t working properly and appliances are running for longer than they should.


An audit will also allow you to monitor the changes/savings in energy usage when you install new equipment or change procedures, and you will be able to benchmark your own business against other similar businesses to see how you compare and if you could be more efficient.


When Ruth audited The Hill she found that electricity usage was relatively low but there is still potential to make savings, whilst diesel use was more efficient than average and there is very little scope for reducing this further given the size of farm.

SAC do resource auditing for farms across the North West. For the meeting Ruth carried out a new audit to find out how energy efficient the farm was today in 2012.

In 2009 Promar International carried out a subsidised plan through the Livestock Programme. In three years the farm's energy usage has remained the same (54,000kWh) but The Hill is now using 15% more energy at night on a cheaper night time tariff (47% of total energy is now used at night compared to 32% in 2009). The farm was already on a split tariff and had a plate cooler and a DX tank at the time of the first audit in 2009. Water from the cooler is used in drinking troughs too. 


Promar Logo

Subsidised Audits available: Offered through the RDPE Northwest Livestock Programme, Promar International do subsidised Resource Efficiency audit reports - see the support and grants pages of this website for more information or Click Here 

Or watch our case study below of how Cheshire Dairy farmer Ed Friend improved energy efficiency on his farm with a resource audit.




Options to reduce electricity use:






Options to reduce diesel use:

Simple top tip – minimise mileage!

By not using your vehicles (tractors, quad bikes, landrovers) as much fuel usage will be reduced – simple but effective.

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