solar panels on a barn roof

Questions & Answers

In our numerous dealings with site owners, suppliers and investors, we have encountered a number of questions, the most common of which include

1. Solar technology prices are continually dropping – surely we should wait until I can generate more for the same cost of equipment?

Ordinarily this is of course, true, but the need for developed countries to accelerate their production of energy from renewable sources has led governments to implement strong regulatory incentives. Devised in Germany, these subsidise the generators of renewable electricity, and underpin our business plan. These Feed In Tariffs have already dropped steeply over time, and so power installations that want to take advantage of them needed to be commissioned sooner rather than later.

2. Whether solar PV or hydro, this is obviously the right thing to do - what’s the catch?

There is no catch other than the financial exposure or complexity of such projects – however, working with Farm Power Apollo for solar PV or Farm Power Hydro for micro-hydropower will transfer all the costs, risk and responsibility of the project to us, and will provide an index-linked, regulatory-backed revenue stream for the site owner over more than quarter of a century. The biggest hurdle faced by most site owners is the fact that the payment of the regulated Feed In Tariffs, once commissioned, depends upon the same equipment being in place at the same post code, for many decades - and the returns on equipment with such a long-term lifetime demand long lease periods.

3. How long will it take?

For hydro-electric sites, a dialogue with the Environment Agency starts immediately on agreement to proceed, and many take many quarters. The project, once approved, can be executed in a matter of months but an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. We set a great deal of importance in the strongest possible project management discipline. For solar power, Farm Power Apollo must obtain planning permission and secure a firm quote for network connection which takes around 60 days after which a decision to proceed can be taken. At that point, we would expect the power station to be commissioned within 3-4 months, depending upon a range of variables.

4. Who will manage it and do the work?

Our company, whether it is Farm Power Apollo for solar PV or Farm Power Hydro for micro-hydropower, is responsible for the site selection, planning permission, connection, design, contracting, insurance, rates, operation and maintenance of the site for its lifetime. We are working with the best general contractors and commercial-scale hydro and solar installers in the UK and continental Europe. The success of the project is Farm Power’s primary concern, and that includes a satisfactory outcome for investors, site owners and our partner suppliers.

5. What do I the site owner have to do?

    The site owner needs to consider whether they want to contribute to the development of UK renewable energy generation in return for
  • a long term, index-linked rent of a roof or brown/low grade field or river site;
  • a significant reduction in their consumption of CO2;
  • low cost, index-linked electricity supplied at source (provided that there is sufficient local consumption), which will act as a 25 year hedge against electricity costs

The site owner needs to support the planning application, allow appropriate access during construction, aid the security and maintenance of the power generation assets under the terms of the Lease Agreement which Farm Power will prepare.

6. Where will it work?

For micro-hydro : any running river site in the UK which is suitable for micro-hydro generation at the level of around 30kWp+.

For solar PV : essentially the south of England (click here for a map), where the level of solar insolation is sufficient to support a decent return on our investment in equipment. Having selected the site, we need to ensure that it is properly inclined and oriented to catch the maximum level of light for generation.

8. Why are you limiting the size of sites you will do?

We believe that the availability of affordable technology and regulatory incentives allows for the development of renewable power generation plants at a wide variety of scales. In order to bring the generation of renewable electricity closer to its consumers, and more secure and widespread in the grid, the UK needs to develop a network of distributed power stations. While there a host of developers of large field-scale solar PV sites or massive hydro schemes, we aim to achieve the same outcome through a network of smaller sites, at more of a community scale, with significantly less environmental and infrastructural impact. We think this is a good thing.

9. What is a Feed In Tariff?

There are good definitions of Feed In Tariffs in general at Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed-in_tariff) and specifically in relation to the UK at the Energy Saving Trust (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/business/Business/Local-Authorities/Funding/Feed-in-Tariffs).

10. I know someone who might be interested, what do I do?

If you know of a suitable solar PV or hydro-electric power site, please contact us on sites@farmpowergen.co.uk or call Mark Simon on 0330 330 9625 and we will respond very promptly. Farm Power will reward any introduction that leads to a new site being commissioned.