In this article, Phil Thompson, CEO of specialist energy developer, Balance Power discusses the financial and environmental benefits of battery storage for farmers.
In the last two years, British farmers have supported the nation through the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, which impacted the global supply and distribution of food.
Simultaneously, the sector is under increasing pressure to produce food in less intensive ways to reduce emissions.
This, coupled with the rising cost of fuel, fertiliser, and energy, has led to many farmers considering new ways to diversify their income.
Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of clean energy projects, including solar PV, wind, and battery storage.
These projects can help ease the financial strain farmers face by providing long-term, secure revenue and greater certainty.
Not to mention the positive impact these projects have on providing energy security and helping to protect the planet.
Introducing battery storage
Electricity storage technology is one of the most promising tools we have to expand the integration of renewables onto the grid more effectively, with the speed and scale that the energy crisis and climate emergency demands. But how does it work?
Battery storage facilities store excess electricity production, at times of high generation and low demand, releasing energy back onto the grid system in times of high demand.
Most people are not aware that electricity is consumed in real-time. There is no electricity waiting around to be used later.
Battery storage facilities can charge through the night when there is little demand, as people are in bed and wind turbines are still spinning.
However, farmers and landowners are often sceptical when approached by renewable energy developers.
Many understandably, want to preserve their land for more traditional farming practices like livestock grazing and growing crops.
And others have had negative experiences with developers in the past. This helps to reinforce beliefs and misconceptions about what it means to host an energy project.
It will be a blot on the landscape. Many believe renewable energy projects to be an eyesore amidst the beautiful UK countryside, yet few are aware of what battery storage actually looks like.
Battery storage facilities are similar in appearance to shipping containers. The design and siting of battery developments are tailored to minimise visual impact, by reducing height and locating them adjacent to existing infrastructure, for example, substations, and electricity pylons.
By doing this, the development blends into the existing environment, whilst reducing any adverse visual impact.
It will be noisy. Similarly, given the nature of storing electricity, farmers and people in the local community have common concerns around noise and light pollution.
While there is a low level of noise emitted from batteries during operation, careful design and engineering take place to ensure that this level is no louder than existing background noise.
During hotter periods, like those we have experienced in July, noise will mainly come from the air conditioning systems, which keep the batteries at a safe temperature.
An acoustic study will be submitted with the planning application to ensure all British noise standards are kept, along with a full lighting strategy to minimise any disturbance from light spill.
Reputable developers will also cover all costs related to the project’s development.
It will bad for wildlife. Battery storage can in fact, provide several environmental benefits.
The battery system help facilitates a lower carbon intense electricity grid in their operation. It commonly includes a rich landscaping scheme included as part of the development, which contributes towards a biodiversity net gain.
Battery storage facilities also have a high energy: density ratio. This means that for the amount of energy the batteries can deliver to the grid, the amount of space which it takes, is low in comparison.
Why not build on brownfield?
Battery storage facilities need to be close to a suitable grid connection. Once you obtain a grid connection point, brownfield sites will be sought, if available. They will always get prioritisation over greenbelt land.
Where a suitable brownfield site is unavailable, we carry out an alternative site assessment to choose the next best site.
This, at times, can mean you can develop on greenfield sites are, but this is never the first choice. However, the climate crisis is now so urgent that it’s imperative we look at all viable options to tackle it.
What is in it for me?
Realising the full potential of land brings benefits. Not least through increasing renewable energy capacity and improving security of supply. But it also has real-term benefits.
Take, for example, a typical crop yield which can bring in £1,485 per hectare, per annum.
Solar projects can provide at least as much income. That is whether in place of farming or in parallel with more traditional crop production and grazing.
That is before you include the substantial increase that battery storage can bring if the site is suitable.
Hosting a battery storage project can directly financially benefit farmers and landowners and protect their legacy and livelihood for future generations.
There are still myths to bust when it comes to energy projects. But by helping people to understand the pros and cons and the reality of hosting a project, they can make better-informed choices.
With investment in clean and renewable energy accelerating, there have never been more commercial opportunities for landowners in the transforming power market.