Renewable technologies for farm businessesThursday 13 December 2012
Over 40 farmers attended a renewables event at the beginning of Decemeber, organised by the Farmer Network in conjunction with H&H Land and Property and Burnetts solicitors.
The event, which was funded by the RDPE North West Livestock Programme, began with a visit to an anaerobic digester at Alistair Wannop’s farm at Linstock Castle near Carlisle. The digester became operational in June 2012 and turns silage, farmyard manure and cow slurry into electricity. The 500-kilowatt plant cost £2.8 million and was designed by a German renewable energy company.
During the tour, farmers questioned Alistair about what feedstuffs were needed for the digester. Although initially the digester was filled with slurry, the majority of the feedstuff used has been silage. Alistair has found grass silage as good a feedstuff as maize silage which, given the very wet autumn, means he is likely to concentrate on growing grass silage in future.
The second visit was to a biomass boiler at Warwick Hall, a small hotel on the outskirts of Warwick Bridge. Biomass (wood) fuelled heating systems burn wood pellets, wood chips or logs to power central heating and hot water.
Islam Pearson, managing director of Eco Logic Living showed the farmers the 190kW HDG wood chip boiler which is housed in one of the buildings at Warwick Hall. The boiler heats not only the hotel but also a number of other properties on the site. Islam talked through the installation process and the relative costs and benefits of different types of biomass boilers and concluded that, when compared to LPG or oil, a biomass boiler can offer a significant reduction on heating bills.
Industry Presentations - Feed in Tariffs, Heat Incentive, Planning
Farmers were then invited back to Borderway Mart for lunch and had the opportunity to talk individually with renewable energy companies who had stands in the Mart’s show hall. The afternoon session then included talks from three speakers:-
- Alistair Fell, Renewables Adviser for H&H Land and Property, gave an update on Feed in Tariffs and the new Renewable Heat Incentive, outlined the opportunities and risks of the various renewable technologies available and some of the practical issues which arise when installing renewables.
- Neil Henderson, Senior Planner for H&H Land and Property, discussed the current planning regime, provided advice on how best to secure planning permission for renewable installations and how the planning climate is likely to change in the coming year. Recent changes to permitted development rights means that many small scale renewable energy projects can be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission although this does not extend to wind turbines for which at local level there may still be much opposition. He concluded by stressing that: “If you are intending to install renewable energy technology speak to your local planning authority or a planning consultant to get advice on whether a planning application is required and if so the likelihood of success.”
- Richard Miller, Head of Agribusiness at Burnetts Solicitors, focused on some of the pitfalls of renewable energy projects and how important it is to obtain specialist advice from the outset. He covered the potential problems that might be faced by farmers leasing their land to companies for renewable installations and stressed that farmers installing their own renewable technologies should ensure they are protected by a carefully worded construction contract. He concluded that farmers should play devil’s advocate and carefully consider the impact of the proposed development on existing & future operations.