Solar PV for Farm Roofs and Outbuildings

Solar PV for farms
David Lewis

As energy costs continue to increase, more and more farms, or those concerned with agriculture, horticulture and land management, are beginning to explore the possible opportunities and revenue that can be generated from renewables such as Solar PV for farm roofs and outbuildings.

Why Solar PV is a profitable investment

Solar energy is highly versatile and scalable with deployment possible on both domestic and commercial buildings, including farm buildings, as well as ground-mounted solar farms.

Solar farms tend to house photovoltaic systems on a large scale. They provide a source of safe and locally produced renewable energy many years after construction. Solar Farms in the UK are a relatively recent development but experienced increased popularity following on from the Government Feed in Tariff (FiT) which was introduced in 2010. Such field-scale arrays of ground-mounted PV modules support biodiversity and yield both economic and ecological benefits.

It is a known fact that in the UK, to meet the EU renewable energy targets by 2020 dependence on overseas fossil fuel imports needs to be reduced.  Solar power is a safe and trusted; mainly made from silicon with no leaking toxins or fumes. As such the implementation of solar PV will help many businesses, including farms, to manage their utility costs as well as reducing their carbon emissions.

How farmers can profit from Solar PV

Many farmers can utilise either their unused land or roofs on buildings to successfully profit from the sunlight that can be easily converted into electricity. Whilst some raise concerns of favouring solar farming over agricultural there have been many examples where farms manage to utilise dual-purpose land with sheep and free-ranging poultry successfully integrated with solar farming. In this way, and particularly by utilising available roofing space, solar farms have the potential to support wildlife and contribute to national biodiversity targets all under one vision.

Solar industry experts argue that less than 5% of agricultural land on farms is taken up by fixings, which leaves 95% available for other uses. By combining solar with existing farming activities farmers in the UK can make better use of the unpredictable weather whereby crop risks can be stabilised by the income generated from solar farming. By diversifying into low-carbon renewable energy the agriculture sector can remain resilient and continue to be stable and supported into the future with predictable returns.

In fact, on average, a 30-acre solar farm will produce enough electricity per year to power 1,375 homes and saves 2,150 tonnes of CO2. But what if you don’t particularly have the field space or time to deal with planning permission?

Outbuildings and farm roofs also lend themselves to Solar PV

Agricultural and horticultural buildings present ideal platforms for solar photovoltaics giving every farmer the opportunity to become an exporter of low-carbon energy.  Solar electricity generation in the agriculture sector commonly takes the form of large arrays of panels deployed across entire fields, however, there are also significant opportunities to be realised by mounting PV panels on top of existing roofs or integrating them into new roofs and outbuildings.

Small to medium sized roof-mounted PV systems offer a sensible investment to farmers with at least a 10% return on investment, with higher returns where a significant amount of electricity is used on site. Examples of popular sizes of installation are around 50 kW for roof-mounted panels. It is often found that farms located in the Southern regions will offer the best energy and economic returns, however PV roof projects are successful across the whole of the country.

The most suitable farm roofs for Solar PV

Examples of the most suitable farm buildings include barns, machinery sheds, grain and vegetable stores, livestock sheds, and dairy parlours. Those that utilise significant levels of electricity on site provide the greatest opportunities, such as pig and poultry sheds and chilled storage areas. In addition to this horticultural building manufacturers are also starting to integrate solar PV modules on their glasshouses in areas where light levels are not so critical.

Consider Government support for your solar project

Despite the gradual reduction in the level of Government support under the financial schemes available, farmers can find support to aid the initial funding of a solar project. Here at Infinity Energy we are able to offer an opportunity under the Carbon Trust’s Green Business Fund to provide up to 15% financial contribution (up to £5,000) of the install.

The payback period for solar energy is relatively short and many businesses find they are able to reduce their energy bills by up to 60%. In addition to having an energy payback period of 18-24 months, solar PV panels are also made of easily-recyclable materials with a Europe-wide scheme for collection and recycling already in existence.

If you’re considering how solar could benefit your business, request a no-obligation survey or call 0800 909 8882 to speak with one of our solar experts.