As large-scale prosumers, farmers in the UK could generate an estimated 10GW from renewable energy, according to new research from sustainability organization Forum for the Future.
The report ‘Farm Power: Putting Agriculture on the Grid’ states that UK farms are “not fulfilling their potential as significant players in our energy system”.
Despite 38% of UK farmers having already invested in renewables, the Farm Power coalition believes it is easy to find at least 10GW – and possibly 20GW – of unmet potential across British farms.
This is equivalent to more than three times the installed capacity of the proposed new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C.
The coalition, made up of farming bodies, businesses and NGOs, are lobbying policymakers and other stakeholders, including supermarkets, to support the vision.
Neil Hughes, head of technology at National Grid, said: “This is a great initiative we are delighted to support.
“Farms and rural communities can make a significant contribution to the sustainable energy mix but we need to collaborate to make it happen. We’ll share our insights into the energy system, the merits of various technology options and the policy landscape to help farmers and rural communities to make the right choices.”
Renewable energy output
The report envisages that the majority of power could be generated by ground solar PV, followed by rooftop solar PV, wind power and anaerobic digestion.
Iain Watt, project lead at Forum for the Future, said: “Our research shows that it’s easy to quickly find at least 10GW of unmet potential across British farms, but that it’s also pretty easy to get up to 20GW, too – especially if we embrace ground-based solar.
“Either way, 10GW is a huge figure, and would go a long way to helping the UK meet its renewable energy targets.
“The fact that this potential can be met in a manner that complements food production – livestock and poultry production can happily co-exist with ground-based solar and/or farm-scale wind, and energy production can also provide space for the pollinators upon which much food production depends – provides all the justification politicians should need to embrace the farm power revolution.”
However, it identifies obstacles to farmers acting as large-scale prosumers or small independent power producers.
The report said: “Chief among [the obstacles] are getting reliable access to grid connections and supportive planning.
“Removing these barriers will require a system-wide approach and the support of key decision makers from central Government to Ofgem and the UK’s six distribution network operators.”
(Pic credit: Solar Selections)