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The benefits for solar PV for agriculture

The farming and agricultural community are one of the sectors who stand to make a gain from the Feed-In Tariff.

The introduction of the UK Feed-In Tariff will place farmers and landowners in a position to make a greater profit from solar technology. By installing solar PV systems on to flat surfaces such as barn rooftops or warehouses, UK farmers and landowners have the potential to earn approximately £16,000 a year, saving over £1,800 in electricity bills, with income and savings expected to be more than £465,000 over 25 years.

An average barn has space to install a 60kWp PV system and in many cases will not require planning permission. PV panels should ideally be installed on a south-facing roof. This is best for energy capture, but the panels can also be place in ground-mounted frames around field margins - as long as they are not shadowed by hedges or trees - or across whole fields.

A detailed energy audit of a farm will show the savings you can make by using home-generated power instead of bought-in supplies. It will also help you decide on the scale of the solar panel installation you need.

The average space required for a solar roof is between 100 - 200 m2. A typical 60kWp system produces 51,000 units of electricity a year which is vital for the power demands of today’s farming. Installation costs can range from £6000 for a 1kWp system to £20,000 for a 4kWp system.

The amount gained from the Feed-In Tariff is dependent on the size of the solar system you install. To gain the maximum payment from the tariff (43.3 per unit) your system must be under 4 kW in output.

The best rates for installing solar power are only available in the next few years in the UK, making it a good time for farmers to introduce renewable energy to their businesses.

How do photovoltaic cells work?

Solar energy begins with the sun. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics, are used to convert light from the sun, which is composed of particles of energy called "photons", into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads. Light from the sun is a renewable energy resource which provides clean energy, produced by solar panels.

PV modules are solar panels that you can attach to your roof or walls. Each module is made from one or two layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.

Solar modules come in a variety of shapes and colours, from grey "solar tiles" that look like roof tiles to panels and transparent cells that you can use on conservatories and glass.

The strength of a PV cell is measured in kilowatt peak (kWp). That’s the amount of energy the module generates in full sunlight.

Will the solar PV panels work if it is cloudy or raining

It is a common misconception that solar panels only work in direct sunlight. PV cells don't need direct sunlight to work - you can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day.

The amount of electricity production with solar PV depends upon the amount of radiation of light. Optimum conditions would be full sun, but electricity will still be generated on a cloudy day but at a lesser rate.

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