We are currently looking into the feasibility of a new scheme that could give community energy groups the chance to use farmland and farm buildings to help them expand Devon’s renewable electricity capacity.
It’s part of European Interreg-funded work we are doing to explore the potential for generating renewable energy within the agricultural sector.
And if successful it could see renewable energy installations developed on low-grade, agricultural land – other than where this is important for wildlife or other environmental interests – and farm buildings.
The rapid expansion of renewable energy production in Devon is expected to be a key requirement of Devon’s Carbon Plan, due to be published this autumn. That plan will outline how Devon can become net-zero by 2050 at the very latest.
Nationally, the Climate Change Committee has said that renewable energy production needs to be quadrupled to have any chance of meeting the UK’s net zero targets.
This research will see how the agricultural sector in Devon, supported by local community energy groups, could be part of the answer, with farms becoming ‘renewable energy hubs’ alongside their usual business, generating energy from wind, solar, biomass and agricultural waste.
But one of the perceived barriers is the large upfront costs of installing renewable technology infrastructure, so this study will need to find a way to incentivise, or stimulate, local investment in renewables.
The project is still in its very early stages. We are working with EU partners and would like to pilot a scheme initially using its own tenant farms estate, after a suitable business model has been discussed and agreed by council members.
Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said:
“This is an example of Devon County Council trying to think outside of the box to help us meet our climate targets. There is substantial untapped potential in the agricultural sector through the use of farmland and farm buildings. This new model, while still in its infancy, could be part of a solution that will help the county of Devon to reach its net-zero targets.”