A DRAMATIC fall in income, coupled with rising energy costs, is seeing increasing number of farmers turning to wind turbines as an additional source of revenue ahead of looming energy regulator deadlines just over two months away.All proposed new turbines need to be pre-registered with regulator Ofgem by December 31 and hundreds of farmers are now working to beat the end-ofyear deadline and benefit from the maximum available revenue.There are now more than 500 planning applications being considered by councils across the UK and figures from the leading turbine suppliers show that more than 200 farm-scale turbines could be connected to the grid by the next Feed-in Tariff (FiT) deadline in April next year as farmers seek to bolster incomes.Steve Milner, managing director of Earthmill, a specialist farm-scale wind turbine installer, said: “More and more farmers are looking beyond traditional crops to survive and the financial benefits of wind turbines for farms are becoming more widely known.“Over the last quarter, we have seen an increase in demand of more than 150 per cent for single-turbine surveys and power generation evaluations from some of the UK’s 300,000 working farms.“Impending reductions in the Government’s green energy incentives are also fuelling record demand which we anticipate will continue for the foreseeable future as a result of the current economic malaise in the farming industry. It is giving farmers the motivation to look at renewables as an additional source of revenue, especially those in dairy, pig and poultry farming where large amounts of electricity are consumed.”
After two years of poor harvests and unusually harsh weather, dramatically rising energy costs are also taking their toll on cash-strapped farmers.Mr Milner said: “Recent innovations in turbine design have improved generation levels from turbines and lifespan. Farmers who install one or two turbines on land in ideal weather locations, and with the right topography for a turbine site, can see the double benefits of energy savings and income generation that typically add up to well into five-figure sums and can top ￡100,000 a year in many cases.“Despite the recent upsurge in interest, currently only five per cent of UK farms have turbines, which is a fraction of those who would be suitable. As one of the windiest places in Europe, the UK and, in particular, Scotland, Wales, the West Country and the north-east, have some of the most exposed farming land, which is ideal for power generation.”Mr Milner said farmers looking at a new installation before the April reduction in the Government’s FiT incentives will gain the most as they will benefit from the new wave of super-efficient turbines that can generate more power than earlier models and also outlast them.