Still opportunities to benefit from renewable energy

Published March 15th, 2016

It has been another unsettled period for wind and solar investors, developers and installers as the ‘greenest government ever’ has changed planning policy, reduced the incentives for large scale solar farms and, most recently, stated their aim to reduce Feed-in Tariff payments by a headline 87 per cent, writes James Fulton, partner and business consultant at the Kettering office of Berrys.

All this has led to an interesting period where the number of solar developments installed has been at record highs, with people trying to make sure they don’t miss the drop in tariffs.

The drop in the Feed-in Tariff is unlikely to be the end of solar panel installations but it will see a major change in the industry; so far we have seen three major companies go into administration and it is likely that more will follow. With the right business model, it will be viable to continue to invest in solar panels but it is going to be important that the generated power is used on site.

In the case of farming businesses, it will mean that dairy farmers, broiler producers and fruit and vegetable producers with chilled storage are likely to be some of the people still able to successfully invest. Amongst our commercial clients, all those with large energy bills may also find it viable to invest.

The big change over the last 12 to 24 months has been in the improvement in battery technology. There are a number of investors assessing opportunities to install battery storage at key locations. Most of these are offering similar terms to land owners, which appear to be lucrative but, given the potential income they provide to investors, there are often opportunities for land owners to get a better deal through a promotion agreement rather than an option agreement or through promoting the site themselves.

In addition to battery storage, there will continue to be some opportunities for large-scale solar development, based on location being adjacent to large users to whom power could be sold. Following discussions with Local Authority Planners, it seems that there may also still be some scope for installing wind turbines of appropriate size, especially in situations where the energy is required within the current business.

In conclusion, there are still opportunities for property owners near to electricity grid connections but those opportunities are becoming more varied and potentially more complicated.

We have recently gained planning consent for a chicken litter fuelled biomass boiler to be installed on a poultry unit in north Herefordshire.

This technologically advanced installation will reduce the spreading of poultry litter and the potential run off from the fields in the surrounding area whilst providing the farmer with free fuel to power the poultry unit, replacing natural gas and woodchip.

These combined heat and power chicken litter burners will usually utilise all of the chicken litter generated on the unit to heat and power the site. Chicken litter will no longer need to be stored and spread away from the farm, reducing the traffic to and from the site.

James Fulton can be contacted at the Kettering office of Berrys on: 01536 532386 or email

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