A seminar at Agriscot heard that landowners should not be afraid to explore green energy opportunities.

Ian Austin of rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson told the audience the move to green energy in Scotland will impact almost all farmers, even those whose land isn’t suited to turbines or solar panels.

Mr Austin pointed out work already underway, including an overhaul of existing electrical infrastructure and the addition of swathes of new infrastructure to both produce, transmit, and store green electricity.

He said: “With this level of development both in production and transmission, landowners, tenants, and their businesses will inevitably be impacted by the works – but with this comes massive opportunities for new income streams.”

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Mr Austin pointed to five green energy opportunities open to farmers, as well as mitigating losses.

1. Renewable Energy – By 2030 Scotland aims to generate 50% of its energy consumption from renewable energy, so there is a pressing need for more sites to house solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle charging points.

These pose a massive opportunity to create an income stream by working with developers. Land that is underutilised can be repurposed for housing renewables, and in some cases, the land can both house renewables and still be used for grazing, making existing landholdings work much harder in delivering revenue for the business without a need for the landowner or tenant to carry the costs of installation. Renewable Energy opportunities can be on a micro farm level e.g., solar panels on shed roofs, or macro scale with large renewable developers building out large Mega Watt schemes.

2. Energy Storage – An amnesty by the Distribution Network Operator, means grid capacity has been freed up for development of battery energy storage systems. Even those who have previously investigated this potentially lucrative option and were told that there wasn’t capacity available for their site, might now have viability. However, it’s important to call out that this is a limited opportunity and interested parties will have to act fast to be able to exploit it.

3. Grid connections – Wind turbine and solar panel developers need to link their kit to the grid. These grid connections could impact multiple landholders as the connections travel across their land, which creates an opportunity for commercial incentives for granting the necessary rights over your land. A word of caution as there are also threats of compulsory purchase order powers being implemented, so support at an early stage from your agent will help you to effectively navigate this and maximise this potential income stream.

4. Access Agreements – Even if your land isn’t suited to turbines, it may still be impacted as they are transported to the site. Technology has advanced massively to produce turbines that can produce more energy more effectively, and this has meant that they are substantially larger as a result. This can pose a significant challenge in transporting them to site and can mean that developers require access, even to very small proportions of properties along the access route. Access produces rent and compensation, and in many instances, can prove to be a substantial income stream.

5. Electrical Infrastructure – The huge increase in demand for green energy means that existing electrical infrastructure needs to be upgraded and new onshore connections built. The impact of this on farmers’ land and businesses is less about making money, and more about maximising value, mitigating loss, protecting from short term and long-term impacts, and ensuring appropriate compensation.