Strutt & Parker Launch one of its First Solar Barn Projects in Essex

Strutt & Parker's newly created energy division has been working with a number of rural landowners to develop new agricultural buildings in which solar pv is a fundamental component of the barn from its inception.

The solar barn at EW Davies Farms in Thaxted measures 4,800 sq ft and incorporates four 20 ft bays and roller shutter doors.  It was constructed towards the end of 2011 under the 28 day agricultural building notice for planning purposes for a cost of ¬£265,000.  The mono pitch roof provides 50 kW of solar pv which was fitted before the Government's changes to the Feed in Tariff in December ensuring that the farm receives the higher rate of tariff.  The energy produced by the solar panels supplies the new farm building and other grain stores on the site, with the remainder transferred into the grid.  Performance of solar pv on similar sites is approximately 35% above expectations, with some of this due to 2011 being 10% brighter than average years.

Strutt & Parker estimate that the Feed in Tariff will have paid for both the solar pv installation and the construction of the new barn in 17 years.  Even with the now lower tariffs a solar barn is expected to pay for itself in around 20 years, and with a dearth of investment into new agricultural buildings this could present an opportunity for funding a new wave of rural development.

Alexander Creed, partner in Strutt & Parker's energy team who led the project said: "When we began to address the opportunity to include solar pv in agricultural buildings as a means of providing energy we explored the possibility of retrofitting existing farm buildings but found that many were not structurally sound enough to support the solar panels.  In addition, up until this week, full planning permission was required for retrofitting whereas new buildings fall under the 28 day agricultural building notice regulations.  We welcome the planning change from 6 April 2012 which will make solar pv permitted development.

"By working with agricultural land owners to develop new buildings we were able to get the projects off the ground quicker as well as being able to ensure the strength of the building as well its orientation and technical design would support solar pv installation and provide maximum returns".

"Even with reduced support from the Government solar pv still provides a good return on investment. For a solar barn we estimate this is between 4% and 5%, and for retrofit around 9%.  The cost of installation continues to fall and this is an area that should be explored by landowners looking to create new buildings across all property sectors."

Strutt & Parker

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