Solar PV array of 30 panels on Dave Stanley's farm at Yarlet, near Stafford.
Farmers up and down the country are investing in solar panels to take advantage of the government's Feed-in Tariff scheme, to boost their income and cut electric bills. And many more are considering whether to take the plunge. Two local farm businesses near Stafford have started generating their own electricity using this form of renewable energy, by taking advantage of the Stafford Area Community Solar scheme.
Dave Stanley of Yarlet runs a dairy herd of 85 head of cattle on 115 acres. He installed a 7.2 kilowatt system on one of his south-facing shed roofs in February 2012. He is well pleased with their performance so far, in spite of the near record rainfall since that time. The best daily yield so far was recorded in May, when it topped 50 kilowatt hours - there was some sunshine in May!
Projected annual yield is estimated to be around 5670 kWh, which at current FIT rates would earn about £900. This doesn't account for savings on electric, which depend a lot on patterns of usage. But Dave reckons that the system generated the projected annual yield in just the first 8 months, notwithstanding the gloomy weather. He's hoping the panels will pay for themselves in about 7 years.
Close-up of the panels on the shed roof.
The system has two inverters, located on the wall of the dairy. Dave says 'Because of the distance from the house I can't monitor the panel's performance remotely, so I take pictures of the readings on my mobile phone - to remind me of the good days!'
Inverters and control switches are situated on the dairy wall.
Another dairy farmer with the same idea is Martyn Poynton, whose business is near Haughton. His 4 kW system, consisting of 16 panels, was installed in June 2012. Projected income at current rates is about £575 per year, plus electricity savings.
A 4 kilowatt array of solar panels on a building at the Poynton farm near Haughton
Martyn Poynton: 'I get lots of farmers asking me how I'm getting on with the panels. I think a lot are now considering solar PV seriously; they just need a bit of a push!'