Banks are keen to help farmers looking to invest in small scale renewables because it makes their business more resilient.
That was the message from the Bank of Scotland’s Donald Stewart as he attended the latest monitor farm community group meeting in Peeblesshire.
The agricultural business manager told farmers at Hundleshope: “We are looking to support farm businesses that want to invest in small scale renewable energy equipment on farm.
“This will help the business become more resilient by giving it greater control over its future energy requirements and/or an additional income stream from Feed in Tariffs paid for generating power for the national grid.
“We agreed in excess of £20 million of lending for a range of renewable energy installations in 2013, including hydro electricity, wind turbines and biomass boiler installations.”
Producers Ed and Kate Rowell, who farm the 1,800 acres (729 ha) hill unit which is one of several Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) monitor farms, were hosting the meeting focusing on renewable energy sources.
SRUC’s head of renewable energy, Jim Campbell had visited the Rowells earlier and established the farm was not suitable for wind turbines (there was enough wind but in areas too far from the steading or a grid connection); to install solar panels would involve costly structural work and although the farm had a constantly flowing burn, there was not enough volume or fall to justify installing a hydro scheme. There is not enough firewood for a biomass set-up
But one of the members of the community group, Blyth Bridge farmer William Aitken, who has three 12kW wind turbines shared his experiences warning farmers to work with a turbine company they trusted and that planning permission could be ‘a significant issue’.
He advised turbines need to be sited no more than 300 - 400 metres away from grid connection, longer distances demand thicker, more expensive cable. Turbines needed to be generating power for a minimum of 20 percent of the time, he said; line space on the public power line, to enable the grid to accommodate the additional power, must be booked and paid for. Locating transformers and inverters close to a Scottish Power meter, inside a good building, is also important.
Mr Aitken buys power for about 12p per unit and receives 4p per unit for ‘exported’ power. He advised negotiating the purchase rate with the power supplier and suggested getting tax advice in relation to capital expenditure.
He recommended maximising use of farm-generated power to save money.
He said: “Including the Feed in Tariff (FIT) in my calculations, which is reducing for new wind turbine installations from April 2014, I had hoped for a return on capital of between 15 to 20 percent.
“For the first twelve months to June 2013, it’s been around 17.5%. This should provide pay-back in approximately six years. However I will need to budget more than anticipated for maintenance, in particular the turbine blades.”