Make Money from the Sun

The benefits of installing renewable energy solar photovoltaics (PV) are outlined in no. 29 of the Farm Case Study series from BPEX.
calendar icon 28 February 2012
clock icon 3 minute read


Skimble Crown had been looking at the potential to use renewable energy for some time and with the south-facing barn decided solar PV would be the best option. The barn roof did not need strengthening and the solar panels have been arranged in such a way as not to cover the sky lights, therefore allowing as much natural light as possible to enter the barn.

Since the success of the solar PV installation, the farm is now looking at other forms of renewable energy, including a wind turbine, and also using the hot air from the inverters to warm the offices.

Simon Brown next to his inverters


  • It is utilising a free resource
  • Inflation linked, guaranteed payments for energy produced over 25 years
  • The business is protected against future electricity price rises
  • It improves the farm’s environmental credentials
  • Low maintenance costs and labour requirement
  • Projected good return on capital invested.

"PV gives such a good return on investment even when borrowing the money, especially when the business can utilise the generated electricity free of charge."
Simon Brown, owner

The System

  • 432 PV panels have been installed on the roof of the dry sow shed
  • The 100–kW capacity system is split between two 50–kW inverters
  • The two panel arrays are separated by a gap to allow for contraction and expansion
  • The roof is south facing and has a pitch of 15°, the optimum being 30°
  • The system has cost around £240,000 and benefits from the government feed-in tariff (FIT) which for this system generates 32.9p per kWh. Excess generated electricity not used on farm generates 6p per kWh
  • This installation benefits from the higher FIT rate as it was completed before the rates were reduced in August 2011
  • The electricity generated is primarily used on farm, reducing the unit’s energy bill so creating two sources of saving/income.

The estimated payback for the system is around eight years and a break–down of the finances can be seen below:

Income and savings £30,000 per year – 15–year loan and interest £20,000 per year
=£10,000 per year in earnings

Keys to Success

  • Do your research first
  • Choose the right renewable energy for your site
  • Choose a recommended and reputable supplier.

February 2012

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