Farmers helping meet renewable energy aims

Bank House Farm, The Delph, Spalding'Eco farmer Eddy Whitfield who is growing bio crops'Pictured with dog Poppy
Bank House Farm, The Delph, Spalding'Eco farmer Eddy Whitfield who is growing bio crops'Pictured with dog Poppy
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FARMERS in south Lincolnshire could be helping to contribute as much as a quarter of renewable energy targets in future.

That is the predication of the NFU chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change Dr Jonathan Scurlock, who suggests a “significant amount of land” will eventually be devoted to the production of biofuels and other energy crops.

He says: “We might get to the situation where anything like a quarter is coming out of the land-based sector. That’s everything – bio energy, wind and solar.”

Many local farmers already have wind turbines or solar panels or are pursuing planning applications to introduce them, both to meet their own energy needs on the farm and to make the business more profitable by enjoying feed-in tariffs.

However, Edward Whitfield, who farms at The Delph in Spalding and at Market Deeping, is one of just two local growers producing miscanthus, a crop used as biomass fuel by power stations.

He has been growing the crop for about six years and says the rapid growth and high biomass yield make it a favourite choice as a bioenergy option. Despite this, miscanthus is not grown as much in the UK as might be expected, given its good returns on what Dr Scurlock calls “poor or ‘problem’ land”.

Edward already has solar panels on his grain store roof creating 63kW of electricity and has submitted an application for planning permission for two small turbines behind the store. There has been an irrigation reservoir on the farm for about 25 years.

He said: “We are looking at trying to become greener and protect the environment but there is also the income aspect from it. It will supplement the farm income a little bit, but it’s a long-term project.”

Dr Scurlock says our local farms won’t look very different in future, although people may see different crops, some of them ‘non-food’ which help to provide more diverse habitats for wildlife.

Dr Scurlock added: “As long as farmers can make a sensible economic argument and they are compatible with environmental objectives, there are lots of different technologies out there farmers could be using. We are not saying every farmer should be putting up wind turbines or solar, but look at your business and see which technology fits best.”