What a lovely sight to see the sheep among the solar panels. Modern farming is becoming dual purpose. The land between and underneath rows of PV models is accessible for grazing of small livestock, such as sheep and free-ranging poultry. Simultaneous farming results in ecological and economic benefits. Home-grown power is the trend according to a new report, says the BRE National Solar Centre.
Gilbert Churchill, a farmer who supplemented his agricultural enterprise by leasing 13 hectares of land for a 4.2 MW PV installation, calls this dual farming a lifeline.
Lightsource provides possibilities for land owners to source a winning and stable income by renting their land for the installation of a solar farm which is fully funded by Lightsource.
pv magazine shares: “The new report released on (Sept 10, 2014) by Britain’s BRE National Solar Centre examines the common benefits of ground-mounted solar projects on farmland in the United Kingdom. The BRE National Solar Centre in partnership with the National Farmers Union, the Solar Trade Association (STA) and a number of leading solar companies, the report examines for the first time good practice in coupling conventional agriculture and ground-mounted solar electricity generation.”
The Agricultural Good Practice Guidance for Solar Farms also believes that solar deployment and farming do work at the same time. Solar farms are developing and encouraging multi-purpose fields. Farmers will have a continual “solar harvest” with a solar farm. The guidance explains that the addition of a solar array will not result in any reduction in the number of animals.
pv magazine continues: “Once the plant is built farmers can continue to graze sheep at normal stocking density. Indeed, solar farms are particularly suited to ‘the fattening of young hill-bred lambs,’ the report says, adding that 95% of a field used for solar can still be accessible for vegetation growth.”
The report looks at the Newlands Farm in Axminster, Devon, where Gilbert Churchill supplemented his agricultural enterprise by leasing 13 hectares of land for a 4.2 MW PV installation. His solar farm was developed in early 2013 by TGC Renewables and is now operated and managed by Lightsource Renewable Energy. Churchill’s sheep graze the same farmland as the did before but now in between the rows of panels. Churchill explains it gives struggling farmers a regular income. The industry needs help in general and this is an answer.
“The farm produces enough green electricity annually to power 1,285 average homes which, in local terms, is about half of the homes in Axminster,” pv magazine notes.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reviewing the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme. There is not a final decision on eligibility of grazed solar farms when it comes to UK farming subsidies.
“The study is the latest report on best practice for solar development published by the National Solar Centre. Earlier this year the National Solar Centre, with the Solar Trade Association and leading conservation NGOs, published the Biodiversity Guidance for Solar Developments on how to use solar farms as wildlife havens.”
Crashing populations of bumblebees with at least two species becoming extinct in the UK stirred the interests in solar farms. Solar farms are ideal environments for nurturing bees and creating space for their habitats.
Solar farms can be wildlife havens, as we discussed in a previous CleanTechnica article: How Solar Farms Could Help Save Bees And Butterflies. “At Solarcentury, we are always looking for ways to positively impact the environment. Working with Habitat Aid presents us with an exciting opportunity to improve biodiversity in solar parks, and it complements our new partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust,” said Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury. “So as well as cutting carbon emissions, solar panels are also ideal for nurturing a diversity of flora and fauna because they can provide a greater range of dry and wet and shaded and sunny areas than fields without panels.”