Farm goes carbon neutral

The ever-rising price of diesel, petrol, gas and electricity means potential energy cost saving avenues will be key technical topics at the show.

Whether based around harnessing the power of the wind, water, sun or anaerobic digestion, on-farm systems are being installed in increasing numbers.

A pioneering organic vegetable farm has, in fact, become one of the first carbon neutral farms in Wales following the installation of solar PV panels on a barn roof.

The family-run Blaencamel Farm, at Aberaeron, in the Aeron Valley of west Wales, is now able to produce enough electricity to run the farmhouse, farm shop and a range of other farmingoperations, while also powering the business into the future.

For organic farmer Peter Seggers, matters of sustainability have been at the heart of the farm’s ethos for the last 36 years and he is hoping other farmers will also consider renewable energy.

“We have always been an environmentally friendly operation but have recently ramped up our drive to becoming truly self-sustainable,” he says.

Encouraged by the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff scheme, which provides cashback for all energy generated and enables any unused electricity to be sold back into the grid, Mr Seggers and his partner, Anne Evans, approached Machynlleth-based Dulas, one of the UK’s oldest renewable energy providers, for guidance.

It recommended installing 39 of the 210w solar PV panels on the roof of a barn, creating an 8.2kW system.

Earning money

Costing £30,000, it took just five days to install the panels and the farm was fully powered and earning money through the same week and received its first payment the following quarter.

The panels generate more than 80 per cent more electricity than is used by the farm, with the remaining energy being sold back to the grid.

“The panels have been a huge success for our business,” says Mr Seggers.

“We can generate enough electricity to support our current farming activities and, because we produce more electricity than we need, we are looking at other ways to further develop the business.”

Renewable energy

So far the panels have enabled the farm to modify its solar irrigation system using renewable energy to pump water around its 20 hectares (50 acres) of crops and an acre of greenhouses.

Electricity generated by the panels is also being used to help develop a new range of food products, including an award-winning relish and preserve.

It is also hoped to have the farm’s current diesel tractor converted - making Blaencamel the first farm in Wales to have an electric tractor run from solar electricity.

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