Sun shines on cider farm as they make the switch to solar
16 September 2011
Herefordshire based Butford Organics, have become one of the first organic cider and perry farm in the UK to make the switch to solar generated electricity. The award-winning family business has installed a 3.9kw solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of one of their cider and perry barns, through a partnership with local installers Southern Solar. The installation has enabled Butford Organics to uphold its commitment to sustainable farming practices whilst simultaneously addressing the issue of increasing energy prices.
Comprising 16 Sharp PV panels, the Butford Organics solar PV system will generate more electricity than the farm needs during the summer months. This will be sold back to the grid in return for feed in tariff subsidies, currently 43.3p per unit of electricity. When the more energy-intensive cider and perry processing kicks off this month, Martin and Janet Harris - Butford Organics' founders - expect to use most of the electricity they generate through the panels on site.
The Harris family have always known that solar, with minimal maintenance requirements, was the perfect option for their electricity needs. Recommendations led them to Southern Solar - a local company with customer service and commitment to the environment at the heart of their own business ethics as well.
"Although we looked around at other solar installers in the area, we felt that Southern Solar, with their extensive experience in the farming and domestic sectors and commitment to the environment were perfectly suited to our business needs." says Martin Harris.
Southern Solar took three days to install the system which is now up and running. Despite having only had it for a month, Martin has already seen what the PV system is capable of. "We have a good southerly aspect and have reached 3.8kw of electricity generation on the sunny days but we were very encouraged to see that it still generates good amounts of electricity on cloudy days too."
Naomi Andersson, Manager of Southern Solar's Herefordshire office, was closely involved in the design and installation process for Butford Organics, which followed a much larger 300kw installation on nearby poultry farm, Brooklands. "Farming - both large and small scale - is an area that we've had great experience in - as a technology, solar is very well suited to this sector. While no two solar systems are the same in design they all have the desired outcome: a great reduction in energy bills and environmental impact plus long-term investment for the farmers."
The Butford solar system cost around £14,000 and will take eight years to pay back - or less if energy prices continue to increase. With the current feed in tariff rates, it will also act as a good investment, providing a return of 12% over its 25 year life span.
Phil Stocker, Director of Farmer and Grower Relations at the Soil Association, said: "It's fantastic to see an increasing number of our farming members commit to renewable energy production, both reducing their carbon footprint and benefitting financially too. The Harris' and many like them, are helping to lead the way to a low carbon farming future."
Butford Organics has, over the last ten years, become a respected cider brand in both the Herefordshire region and in the organic food sector. With a raft of awards under their belt including this year's Big Apple Cider & Perry trials for which they were awarded champion perry producers, their solar panels have been installed at the perfect time - they're going to be busy.
For more information on Southern Solar, go to www.southernsolar.co.uk or contact the Herefordshire office on 01568 617 770.