Renewable Energy: Opportunities and considerations

Renewable Energy: Opportunities and considerations

As South East Farmer reported earlier this year, plans are currently underway for a colossal solar park on farmland located between Faversham and Seasalter, Kent. This will dwarf the size of the UK’s current largest solar farm by three and a half times, being bigger than the size of 445 football pitches and providing energy to more than 100,000 homes.

Whilst a project of this size obviously requires considerable planning, there are important considerations as part of any renewable energy project, even if that project is not planned for your own land.

Recent years have seen a consistent growth in the use and production of renewable energies on farms. Accordingly to the NFU’s Farmer Confidence Survey taken between October and November 2017, there has been an increase in the range of technologies used in diversification from agriculture into renewable energies, with no sign of this type of diversification slowing down. The NFU believes that expanding into renewable energy offers “stable and predictable returns”, making agriculture more resilient. In current times of unprecedented and unknown change, the opportunities presented by renewables could be more valuable to land owners than ever, representing an opportunity to improve efficiency, cut costs and increase profits.

There are important factors to consider if you want to take advantage of the opportunities renewable energy represents. Stark changes have been seen recently in government policies and the financial support available for wind and solar farms, so it is important for land owners to be aware of these and to ensure they take advantage of what is available. Farmers need to consider the terms of their existing tenancies, including whether they are permitted to expand into renewable energy and ensuring that any security under their tenancy is not compromised as a result of diversification. Planning is another important factor and anyone wanting to introduce renewable energy onto their land needs to be aware of the current planning policies and obtain all requisite planning consents. 

There are also important factors to consider if a renewable energy project is planned on other people’s land, such as that of your neighbour. If your neighbour is diversifying into renewable energy, have they considered any potential impact it will have on your land, for example, the impact upon any of your rights including rights of way and rights of access?  Your neighbour may need access onto your land to facilitate construction of their renewable energy project. If this is the case, then it is crucial to ensure that your interests are sufficiently protected and that you have proper recourse available if your property is damaged, if you suffer any loss or if anything goes wrong.

Diversification into renewable energy is likely to continue and can be used as useful armour against the uncertain times that Brexit has introduced. This type of diversification is not a new concept, but the regulations and policies governing renewable energy have changed over time. For a renewable energy project to be successful, there are important factors to consider, including these regulations and policies. Even if a project is not planned for your own land, it is crucial to be aware of how a renewable energy project might affect you and how you can best protect your interests.   

Written by Joanna Simpson, Solicitor, 01622 776447

This article first appeared in the May 2018 edition of South East Farmer magazine.