New guidance published today by the BRE National Solar Centre promotes best practice in coupling conventional agriculture and ground-mounted solar electricity generation.
The new guide, compiled in partnership with the National Farmers Union and a number of leading solar companies explains, how solar farms can easily be combined with free-range chicken and poultry raising and the grazing of sheep.
The guidance makes clear that the addition of a solar array does not require a reduction in the number of animals – once the plant is built farmers can continue to graze sheep at normal stocking density. Once the solar farm is in place, 95% of a field is still accessible to vegetation growth and agricultural use.
Jonny Williams, Director of the BRE National Solar Centre, said: “As more farmers look for alternative ways to supplement their traditional income, it’s become vital that definitive advice is made available for the agri-community.
“Working in partnership with the solar industry and the NFU we have produced a valuable guide that sets out best practice for the integration of solar farms with conventional agriculture, ensuring that farmers get a year-round ‘solar harvest’ to supplement their regular business.”
Guy Smith, Vice-President, NFU, added: “It is clear that renewable energy can support profitable farming, underpinning traditional agricultural production with additional returns that make businesses more resilient.
“Only a negligible land take is required to make a major contribution to Britain’s clean energy needs, so the future looks bright for solar grazed lamb and free-range solar chicken.”
One farmer said: “Solar power is environmentally friendly and it suits the farm industry very much because it gives a secure regular income.
“That’s very important to me and to other farmers as the industry is struggling at the moment to make ends meet. It’s a lifeline. With solar panels you can run sheep, as I do. It’s very quiet, you don’t know it’s there, and it’s generating power for the local community.”
Read the ‘Agricultural Good Practice Guidance for Solar Farms’ report here