Scots farmers told grasp renewables

Posted on 30 April 2013

BiomassScottish farmers should grab the opportunity presented by the Scottish government’s target of producing 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2020, said NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller at the recent Agri-Energy conference at Thainstone.

Mr Miller, who likened the drive for renewable energy to the American gold rush, said renewables schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) offered farmers an “extraordinary opportunity” to develop a diversified income stream.

He admitted that planning and grid connection difficulties would restrict further development of the wind sector, but alternatives such as hydro, solar, biomass and anaerobic digestion remained largely untapped by farmers.

An £111m slump in farm incomes last year and a 10% increase in costs highlighted the need for farmers to develop other sources of income.

“Renewable energy offers opportunities for Scotland’s farmers at a time when farm incomes from their core business of producing food are falling and businesses are under significant pressure from changing weather patterns and escalating costs,” said Mr Miller.

”The right investment in renewables at farm level – or larger collaborative projects – presents a route to an income stream where the likely investment and potential returns are now well established. The RHI offers a huge incentive to get involved and is set to ignite the sector.”

Despite a reduction in the Feed-in Tariff, investment in solar panels still looked attractive and more than 7,000 sites – including 1,000 in Aberdeenshire alone – had been identified as suitable for hydro schemes.

Many farms also had areas of woodland that could be harvested for biomass, and anaerobic digestion was totally unexploited in the UK compared with Germany, where there were more than 6,000 AD plants on farms, said Mr Miller.

NFU Scotland has recently entered into a partnership with the UKFM Group for the provision and installation of renewable technology and energy efficient products for the union’s 7,000 members. The union is also launching a renewable energy initiative with the Scottish Government which is due to be announced in the summer.