Despite the introduction of tractors, combine harvesters and any number of other technological developments which have increased their productivity, farms have still tended to maintain a traditional rural atmosphere. Well, that might all be about to change. Before long, you will probably be seeing barns with advanced technology on their roofs, namely solar panels.
Under the government’s feed-in-tariff scheme, anyone who installs solar panels on their property will be paid for any excess electricity that they generate which is fed into the national grid. So far this has mostly been used by private citizens on their place of residence. As reported, local councils have recently been allowed to get in on the act as well, and now farmers are being encouraged to take up the offer.
If you think this is going to ruin the nostalgia of the traditional countryside, then don’t blame the farmers. They need the money. Last year their income as a whole fell by 7% on the back of commodity prices, and by investing in this scheme they could earn thousands, or even tens of thousands of pounds a year, depending on the amount of solar panels installed. That is on top of the saving they will make on electricity bills, as the solar panels should be able to cater to all their electricity need. So far only forty farms have put in an application to be allowed to install solar panels, however that number is expected to rise in short order.
With the most amount of sunlight a year on average, Cornwall is well placed to become the hub of this scheme but it will be profitable everywhere, even the Northeast which in general has far more dreary weather. The advantage of this plan is that it does not require a farm to dedicate itself to generating solar power, as the so-called “solar farms” do, in fact it will not disrupt the normal operation of a farm at all. Once the solar panels are installed in fact, nothing more need be done, it will all take care of itself. This could turn out to provide a vital supply of income for farms which may not otherwise be able to survive.
Planning applications are likely to be turned down for many wind farms however, another source of renewable energy which could be used to produce much needed energy, and profits. Councils also have to consider the loss of tourism that could occur if places of natural beauty are considered to be ruined by the introduction of ugly wind turbines. These are likely to be more important in the north, where weather conditions are more conducive to this sort of renewable energy.
With the country’s need to produce more renewable energy, and the farmer’s need to make more money, overall it seems as if this is a perfect convergence of opportunities, but only time will tell. In the meantime, work on the installation of over one thousand solar panels on the farm which hosts the Glastonbury festival has recently begun, and with more farms set to follow suit, be prepared for the traditional countryside to start getting a bit of a science fiction air about it.