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Flintshire farmer recommends renewable energy schemes

A FLINTSHIRE farmer is encouraging others in the agriculture industry to embrace renewable energy schemes.

Edwin Hughes, of Cornist Ganol Farm in Flint, is one of an increasing number of Welsh farmers seeing substantial returns on their investments.

With income for farmers dropping as commodity prices have plummeted, the agricultural community has been forced to look for new ways to make money.

There has been a massive surge in interest among the UK’s farmers since the Government introduced new subsidies – known as Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) – in April last year.

And with returns of 10% or more on investment, installing some form of renewable energy generation – most commonly solar panels or wind turbines – is increasingly seen as a secure investment by the farming community.

And Mr Hughes admits his decision to go green wasn’t all about saving the Earth.

“I had the system installed because of the Feed-in Tariffs, which will make it an investment not just for myself by also for my son when he takes over the farm,” said the former NFU Clwyd leader.

“My son-in-law, who is an architect, dropped the idea on me and I mulled over it for several months.

“The figures made sense but you never know how the technology will play out. At the Royal Welsh Show everyone was selling the panels but a banker cautioned me that solar was still unproven.

“Well, I can’t afford to wait 25 years to see if the technology holds out. Sometimes you just have to take a punt.”

Eco Environments, one of the UK’s leading renewable energy providers, said interest from farmers has ‘gone through the roof’ in the past six months.

Mr Hughes used Eco Environments to have a solar panel system installed at his farm.

It is estimated the scheme will produce about 15,692 kWh of electricity a year – which will earn him more than £5,162 a year in FiT payments.

He will also save about £1,330 a year generating his own electricity and £97 by exporting any excess power – giving the farm an overall 22.7% return on investment annually.

Mr Hughes said within seven years his system will have paid for itself.

He added: “I would have no hesitation in recommending the company to other farmers in the region.”

Under the FiT system customers are paid for the electricity their system produces, as well as being paid for power sold back to the National Grid.

The system is designed to offer a return of more than 10% on projects.

The average barn roof could generate as much as £5,000 of income a year if electricity-generating solar panels are installed. Larger field-based projects of have the potential to generate more than £15,000 a year.

Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU’s chief adviser on renewable energy, added: “Farmers are extremely interested in diversifying and this is completely compatible with the traditional business of a farm.”