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Solar farms: why they are popular

Solar farms are increasingly common sights from train windows as you travel the length of the UK.

There are plenty of reasons for this; not least the UK’s strategic transition towards low-carbon energy generation.  But what are the reasons farmers and landowners are making the decision to harvest kilowatts instead of crops?

This short and punchy blog examines the high-level reasons why there are now approximately 1,100 solar farms across the UK.

There is certainly a debate around the subject.  The Countryside Charity CPRE is vocal against many solar developments which it says are harmful to the UK’s “essential” means of food production.  However, solar can be very profitable and contribute to the UK’s net zero 2050 target, as well as enable some interesting practices covered below.

Why solar farms are growing in popularity

They are financially beneficial.  Not only can farmers sell the vast quantities of energy they produce, they can also lease land to energy companies to use themselves.  This mitigates environmental risk factors associated with agriculture, such as weather variability and market fluctuations.

Equally, farms can take their own electricity consumption off-grid, drastically reducing cost, increasing supply security and providing more predictable financial planning.  Of course, solar energy is entirely renewable and will reduce a farm’s carbon footprint significantly.

Diversified revenue streams are a key focus for most farms, who don’t want their eggs in one basket (no apologies for the perfectly-relevant pun).

The land is still usable when it has solar.  Agrivoltaic practices involve growing crops on land which also has solar photovoltaics installed.  Plants can still grow in certain distribution patterns around panel arrays, allowing dual land use.

A field’s overall yield will be much lower if it contains panels.  However, the microclimate around the solar panels could actually be more efficient, according to a 2023 Cornell University study which suggested improved temperature regulation could positively impact yield per hectare.

Marginal land can be utilised.  Land that may not be suitable for grazing or crops may still work well for a solar array.  If land has poor soil quality; is unsuitable for animals to live on; or has obstacles or inclines, it could still be used for solar.

Accessibility and affordability.  Whilst installing a solar farm will undoubtedly be expensive by most people’s reckoning, it is far more affordable and accessible than it used to be.  The price of solar panels has dropped, whilst the means by which farms can finance their systems have increased in variety.

As solar PV technology develops, companies have developed innovative ways of financing and implementing arrays.  Organisations such as Procure Smart offer a turnkey service, from feasibility studies to financial modelling and installation.

Community contribution.  Solar farms are of such a scale that they can contribute to their immediate area’s energy security and infrastructure, as well as introduce jobs and opportunities for maintenance into rural communities.

By integrating solar fields, farms can achieve a range of economic, environmental and social benefits, making this an increasingly attractive option for agricultural operations looking to secure a sustainable and diversified future.

Procure Smart can help your farm, landowning or agricultural business investigate feasibility of solar fields and solar farms.  Speak to us for free advice and discuss your ideas around using land for solar PV arrays.  Simply fill in the form below to speak to our experts.

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