Is your land suitable for a wind turbine or solar farm asks Josh Bower, business manager for solar power at Cleanearth.
Leasing or developing your land for a wind turbine or solar farm can be an excellent way to utilise poor-quality land and generate an additional guaranteed, fixed income far higher than what otherwise might be achieved.
The additional income you might generate from leasing your land will depend on site specific data and the scale of project undertaken.
For a wind turbine, the typical rent is around 10% of output which could mean anything from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands for a larger turbine. For solar, the level of return is considerably less and this is reflected in the rent, usually set at £1,000 per acre per annum. You may also wish to invest in the project yourself, for which the rewards will be greater still.
But what makes a viable site for a wind turbine or solar farm? There are three key areas which must be considered, site topography, grid connection and planning.
The site topography affects the construction and output of a development. For a turbine, wind speed is critical and only sites with an average wind speed greater than five metres per second will be viable for large-scale development with the best sites achieving greater than seven metres per second. In order to deliver the turbine itself, a relatively straight access track at least four metres wide will be required.
For solar, the level of radiation varies nationally, with South West locations performing up to 15% better than the national average. As a minimum you will need at least seven acres of flat or south-facing, unshaded land.
In order to export electricity, any installation must be grid connected. The cost of these works can vary depending on distance to the nearest 33KV line, and depending on the amount of spare capacity available. If large upgrade works must be completed, this will undermine the feasibility of your project.
In the South West, due to the amount of recent development the grid network is fast reaching paralysis, with very few pockets of spare capacity left.
Given the scale of these projects, it is not surprising that gaining planning consent presents a significant obstacle. The main factor to consider is visual impact and the larger the project the greater the obstacles presented.
For a 50kW wind turbine, the proposed site will need to be at least 50 metres from any hedgerows and at least 200 metres from any neighbouring properties. If you wish to install a larger turbine these parameters increase.
For solar, due to the amount of land required, only less favoured or brown-field sites will be considered.
For both technologies, sites within National Parks will not gain planning permission. Permission is possible within areas of outstanding beauty (AONB) or sites of specific scientific interest (SSSI) – but more in depth assessments will be required.