Greenwash? UK Solar Farm Subsidies Greater Than Revenue, Push Agriculture Out Of 62,000 Acres

NFU 2013: Solar photovoltaic electricity in agriculture

If 10 GW of solar power were ground-mounted (half the national ambition for 2020 set by DECC), this, would occupy at most 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) – just 0.14% of total UK agricultural area (18 million ha) with a negligible impact on national food security. Solar farms are a temporary and reversible use of farmland – the modules are typically mounted on screw piles, to be removed at the end of the 25-year planning consent period, enabling land to return to agriculture.

Solar farms receive more cash from green subsidies than selling the energy they produce

  • British energy producers were given generous handouts to introduce solar farms
  • But many make the majority of their cash from the ‘green levy’ on taxpayers’ bills
  • Total subsidy provided to solar electricity generators last year was about £1.2bn


Britain’s biggest solar farms receive more cash from green subsidies than from selling the electricity they produce, figures reveal. Energy producers were encouraged to start solar farms with generous handouts funded by a ‘green levy’ on taxpayers’ bills. But many of them now make the majority of their cash from the subsidy – instead of the electricity they produce.

The total subsidy provided to all generators of solar electricity last year is estimated to be about £1.2billion. This was part of the £5.6billion subsidy paid to green energy producers, which critics say inflates household energy bills. Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) following a Freedom of Information request show ten of the biggest solar farms in the country pocketed more than £2.5million each in eco-subsidy last year. The payouts were offered to help increase the amount of ‘green’ energy produced in the UK.

The solar subsidy is responsible for around £15 a year on a household power bill. However the system – which guarantees the handouts for 15 or 20 years – has been overly generous. Treasury officials have stopped new deals being made with solar farms in a bid to stop haemorrhaging huge amounts of cash. But farms with existing deals are guaranteed generous handouts until the end of their contracts.

Last year’s biggest beneficiary was the Owl’s Hatch Solar park, in Herne Bay, Kent. The 200-acre site generated just over 54,000 MWh of electricity, worth around £2.5million, but was given a handout of £3.8million. The farm is owned by Cubico Sustainable Investments, which has seven other smaller solar farms in England.

The nation’s largest installation, Shotwick Solar Park, in Deeside, North Wales, was handed a £3.5million subsidy, which was pocketed by owner Foresight Solar Fund. It also generated electricity worth around £2.5million.

Dr Lee Moroney, of the Renewable Energy Foundation charity, said: ‘The moratorium on new subsidies to renewables was the right thing to do, but it is a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. ‘The legacy subsidies are themselves so high … that Government must consider retrospective cuts to reduce what is an unreasonable burden on the consumer and the wider economy.’…

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