A village in Bedfordshire is hoping to get the go ahead from the council to create a solar farm which will produce enough energy to power over 300 homes. This comes at a time when demand for renewable energy of all kinds in increasing, but especially solar energy, due to the feed-in tariff scheme.
The feed-in tariff has been discussed many times on this site, but for anyone new to the issue, it is quite simple. It works like this. Anyone who produces renewable energy, whether that be a private individual with solar panels on their roof, a university, a public institution like a hospital, or a company producing a solar farm as we have here, the government gives money for the energy produced. The government has a target to reduce carbon emissions substantially by 2020, and a large part of this plan is to encourage more production of renewable energy. One of the best ways to encourage anyone to do anything is with a financial incentive, especially when there is an initial cost involved as there is with renewable energy sources. Therefore, for every unit of energy which you produce and feed back into the national grid, you get a certain amount of money back. Now is the best time to get involved with this, as that amount of money is likely to be reduced in 2012 (or before) when there is another spending review by the government.
It is no surprise therefore, that solar energy has become increasingly popular. However there are other factors to consider, besides financial benefits and the reduction in carbon emissions. One of these, a concern which has been raised in some quarters, is that with solar farms there is a possibility that they will take up farmland space that would be better used to grow food. After all, it wouldn’t do us a lot of good to become more energy independent, and at the same time become even more dependent on foreign supplies of food. In the case of the solar farm which is to be built in Caddington, this will be one of the issues considered as it is being built in a field which could be farmed.
One of the good things however, in the situation, is with the way the solar farm will be built, with the panels elevated slightly off the ground. This means sheep will still be able to graze there. Not every piece of land is used to grow crops, and sheep grazing is just as important, so if the field can still be used for that then it is not really losing farmland. Although if ever they wanted to change its use from grazing to growing something, they could not.
Other factors to consider include local heritage and the impact it will have on the landscape. Although in preparation for the build, locals were asked what they thought of it, and one commented that as the field is basically out of sight there shouldn’t be a problem. It seems that the council is behind it as well, so this will likely be another solar farm which is going to be built in the UK.