Rising energy costs are a concern for any farmer in maintaining the ongoing profitability of a business. With fossil fuels in short supply and energy prices determined by suppliers, harvesting your own energy from renewable sources such as solar PV and biomass remains the answer to fixing energy costs for the next 20 to 25 years.
The recent changes to the Government funded Feed in Tariff (FIT) has understandably left many believing that renewable energy is uneconomical and generates little if any return on investment. But this is not the case. Whilst the FIT rates have reduced and continue to do so, the dropping costs of solar panels and installation coupled with greater savings on electricity and heating bills are balancing the FIT reduction. Good returns can still be made using the well proven technology, which makes Solar PV a good business opportunity and diversification option for farmers and growers.
Solar PV remains a popular renewable energy option in the farming sector due to the availability of large roof spaces on many farm buildings, with planning often not a requirement. FIT payments for existing PV systems are guaranteed for 20 years and on the majority of systems any electricity that is not used can be sold back to an electricity supplier, generating a further income. Investing in solar PV typically offers a return of between 12 - 16% with a 6-7-year payback period on installation. Due to being classed as fixed plant and machinery there may also be some tax benefits as well.
There are other attractive renewable incentives, most prominently The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payment and Renewable Electricity (ROC) scheme, which apply to all newly installed renewable energy systems such as ground and water source heat pumps, biomass boilers and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems.
Gasification Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is the latest technology, converting renewable waste organic matter into a biogas which in turn generates both heat and electricity. These systems are an ideal solution to those with both high electricity and heating consumption such as livestock breeders who may already have the fuel on the farm as a waste product. Installation costs vary with size and exact technology, but we are seeing payback on the cost of the systems in as little as 4 years in some cases.
In addition to considering renewable energy solutions, investing in energy saving solutions such as LED lighting, battery storage and voltage optimisers can reap good savings returns in relative short payback periods with a payback of typically 2-3 years.
Adequate lighting in livestock housing such as pigs is essential. Livestock such as pigs and poultry can benefit from LED lighting due to the enhanced range of benefits that they provide. Specialist livestock LEDs have been designed which are better at dispersing light, dimmable, provide better lighting levels, fully waterproof (for wash-down), and have been tailored to suit the colour spectrum of livestock to help reduce stress and encourage rest.
On top of this switching to an LED lighting scheme provides immediate cost savings as they require between 55-90% less electricity to operate than traditional lighting solutions. They have a longer life span of up to 60,000 hours, create little heat and require much less maintenance than traditional lighting.
Energy can also be saved by reducing waste caused by machinery operating at the wrong voltage. Most equipment is designed to, and requires, 230 volts to function correctly but the voltage supplied to site can vary considerably. In most cases the voltage will be too high, meaning equipment will wear quickly and use more electricity. The installation of a voltage optimiser ensures that electricity supplied to onsite machinery is at the correct voltage. Typically, on a site suffering from high supply voltage, fitting a Voltage Optimiser can instantly reduce electricity consumption by 15-20%.
Eddie Chadfield, general manager of Bowler Energy said, “Despite recent cuts to subsidies, renewable energy continues to provide realistic cost saving energy solutions for a number of businesses. The cost of installing solar PV has reduced and still shows a great return on investment. The gasification CHP market is very exciting to be involved with, and has given a boost to the renewables market and can provide considerable cost savings for high heat and energy users.”
“Energy saving solutions such as LED lighting and voltage optimizers are also really beginning to take off in popularity across businesses. The payback is very fast and our customers immediately see the benefits of an installation.”
Bowler Energy offer a turnkey installation service. To find out more or arrange a free site assessment and determine your energy savings, contact Bowler Energy on 01283 736637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us at www.bowlerenergy.co.uk. Social media users can follow us on Facebook/bowlerenergy @bowlerenergy