UK farmers turning to wind turbines to supplement income

A dramatic fall in income, coupled with rising energy costs, is seeing increasing number of farmers turning to wind turbines as an additional source of revenue ahead of looming energy regulator deadlines just over two months away

Wind turbines near Kielder
Wind turbines near Kielder

A dramatic fall in income, coupled with rising energy costs, is seeing increasing number of farmers turning to wind turbines as an additional source of revenue ahead of looming energy regulator deadlines just over two months away.

All proposed new turbines need to be pre-registered with regulator Ofgem by December 31 and hundreds of farmers are now working to beat the end-of-year deadline and benefit from the maximum available revenues.

There are now more than 500 planning applications being considered by councils across the UK and figures from turbine suppliers show that over 200 farm-scale turbines could be connected to the grid by the next feed-in tariff deadline in April next year as farmers seek to bolster incomes.

Steve Milner, managing director of Earthmill, one of the UK’s only specialist farm-scale wind turbine installers and suppliers, said: “More and more farmers are looking beyond traditional crops to survive and the financial benefits of wind turbines for farms are becoming more widely known.

“Over the last quarter, we have seen an increase in demand of over 150% for single-turbine surveys and power generation evaluations from some of the UK’s 300,000 working farms.

“Impending reductions in the Government’s green energy incentives are giving farmers the motivation to look at renewables as an additional source of revenue, especially those in dairy, pig and poultry farming where large amounts of electricity are consumed.”

The fall in typical farm revenues shows no signs of letting up with Defra estimating they will be slashed by up to 50% this year. After two years of poor harvests and unusually harsh weather, dramatically rising energy costs are also taking their toll on cash-strapped farmers.

“Recent innovations in turbine design have improved generation levels from turbines and lifespan. Farmers who install one or two turbines on land in the ideal weather locations, and with the right topography for a turbine site, can see the double benefits of energy savings and generation income that typically add up to well into five-figure sums and can top £100,000 a year in many cases,” added Mr Milner.

“Despite the recent upsurge in interest, currently only 5% of UK farms have a turbine. As one of the windiest places in Europe, the UK and, in particular, Scotland, Wales, the West Country and the North East, have some of the most exposed farming land. While that isn’t great for all farming uses, it is ideal for power generation.”

Mr Milner said farmers looking at a new installation before the April reduction in the feed-in tariff incentives would gain the most as they will benefit from the new wave of super-efficient turbines that can generate more power than earlier models and also outlast them.

“It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for farmers and landowners and one that fits with the Government’s green energy agenda,” he said. “As well as the obvious motivation protecting their business against the ever increasing cost of energy, more and more farmers are also feeling good about their role in supporting the generation of renewable energy,” he concluded.

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