When novelty countryside band The Wurzels released an anti-wind farm song in May, you’d be forgiven for thinking all British farmers were angry about wind farms.
Not so. Farm-scale installations can help farmers cut their energy bills, and thus saving money on the cost of producing food. It also lets them sell excess energy to the grid. The UK’s small and medium wind market is healthier than you may think.
Yes, you’ve got communities minister Eric Pickles throwing his weight around after he took the right to veto any UK onshore wind farm on any site at any time.
He has already turned down applications for ten out of the 12 projects he has looked at, of which four went against the recommendations of local planning inspectors. But he does not tend to get involved in farm-scale schemes, instead focusing his ire on proposals that he believes will have a major negative impact on the look of the countryside. This means there is still significant potential for investors and manufacturers who work with farmers — and other individual property owners — on small to medium scale turbine sites.
The fundamentals of the market are still strong.
Farmers have access to land and windy sites. They have a need for energy and are exposed to rising prices from the big six utility companies. And they are in remote communities where energy supply can be intermittent.
Meanwhile, the number of manufacturers set up to cater for this market will gradually drive down the costs of this technology. For instance, Endurance Wind Power opened a factory near Kidderminster a few months to specifically focus on building ‘farm-scale’ turbines; and Spanish firm Norvento launched a 100kW turbine late last year for smaller landowners.
Conventional energy costs are rising whereas the cost of generating energy from a turbine on your own land is falling. It really looks like a no-brainer.
And, as the price of kit comes down, then more property owners will be able to afford to install it. In turn, this means that manufacturers and developers will be ever less reliant on government subsidies and support to back up their demand pipeline. It removes some unease about uncertain policies and may create a platform for investors.
It is easy to imagine a farmer selling a wind turbine on his land to an external investor after agreeing a favourable power purchase agreement. This would enable the farmer to benefit from low-cost energy and recoup the money spent installing the turbine. The investor could sell excess energy to sell to the grid, as well as taking responsibility for maintenance.
The other benefit of driving down the cost of small and medium turbines it that it enables the wind sector to expand in new markets including Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco. Low-cost wind can become a vital component of rural electrification in developing nations.
But it is not only farmers in those countries that stand to benefit.
The Inflation Reduction Act has sparked major optimism in the US renewables sector, but wind installations still fell 37% last year.