Angus based Forster Group outlines the process of having photovoltaics (PV) installed on farm and gives a success story of one of its clients.

The firm, which specialises in roofing and solar energy, also has an in-house skills academy for its modern apprentices which it founded in 2015. The business also has a regional office in Livingston.

Forster points to falling costs of solar panels, making them the ideal solution for the agri sector and argues that installing solar panels helps farmers demonstrate sustainability and environmental stewardship to retailers and consumers.

For a farm installation, the firms says the process usually takes around ten to twelve weeks from the initial enquiry, but this can vary.

READ MORE | New solar tech to reduce dairy farmer energy costs

A site assessment and design proposal then takes place with a consent application being submitted around the fourth week and the project is delivered around weeks seven to ten.

One business that installed solar panels is Cookston Farm near Glamis. The 700 acre business has been farmed by the Robertson family for more than 70 years and is now in the hands of the third and fourth generation of the family.

Potatoes are the main crop on the farm and at one time, around 3500 tonnes are stored in refrigerated cold stores which require a constant temperature of approximately 2.5 degrees.

David Robertson said: “We were a bit luckier than some our neighbours as our electricity contract was fixed at 26 pence per unit. But because further energy price increases are inevitable, it made perfect financial sense for us to investigate how to generate our own power from solar panels.

“As a farmer, it’s important for me and for my customers that we have sustainable farming practices in place and renewable solar energy is an integral part of achieving that.”

The Robertsons had a 68kWp roof mounted system installed which consists of 168 panels over four arrays, which was completed in March 2023.

The system is configured so that it can be scaled up to include a battery, however Forster engineers advise the system should be allowed to bed-in for a full year before considering making any additions.

Mr Robertson said: “Actual installation on the roof of the cold stores was very straightforward. It probably took two or three days over the course of two weeks for the job to be completed. The Forster team did everything from carrying out the initial site survey to design and installation. Importantly, they are very tidy workers — never any mess or clutter lying around during or after installation, which is pretty important on a farm like ours.

“The monitoring app that Forster provided is brilliant as it lets us see in real time the energy we are generating, shows us our consumption and the amount that is being exported back to the grid.”

The farm now uses around 70 per cent of the power it generates, while 29 per cent is exported to the grid.

The family also times getting loads ready for pick-up while the sun is shining, so the power generated from solar panels is used to return the store temperature to 2.5 degrees.

Mr Robertson concluded: “Because we were lucky enough to be on a low tariff, the payback period for our investment is around six years, which is a little longer than some of our neighbours, who, because they are on much higher tariffs - some as much as 82p/kw - have shorter payback periods of about two years.

“After six years, I can count the electricity generated from my solar panels as free.”