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The importance of a structured approach to site evaluation and business planning cannot be overstated when it comes to tapping the commercial potential of wind energy – especially in the current financial lending context.
This was mantra of a series of autumn seminars in the eastern region organised by Carter Jonas and chartered accountants and business advisers, Duncan & Toplis together with the Country Land & Business Association (CLA).
The first seminar was held in October at the Greetham Valley Gold Club in Oakham and the second, in November, at the Rowley Mile Conference Centre in Newmarket.
At Newmarket, an audience of over 50 delegates from a range of sectors – including finance, banking, legal, private and estate land owning and farming interests – gathered on what was, appropriately, one of the most blustery days of the year to hear presentations from Carter Jonas and Duncan & Toplis and to participate in group discussion and one-to-one questions about wind energy development projects including site suitability, the planning application and consent process and the business case and tax planning framework for the deployment of renewable energy technologies.
Under the chairmanship of the CLA’s eastern region director, Nicola Currie, panel members Andrew Watkin and Claire Allsop of the Carter Jonas Energy and Marine team set the scene for opportunities for farmers and landowners covering topics such as the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT), turbine options, site characteristics - including wind speeds and constraints such as grid connection - ecology and ornithology.
Business planning and tax implications were the areas covered by panel members, Andy Severn and Neil Berry – both tax specialists - of Duncan & Toplis who headed the second session.
Their presentation focused on the need to establish the right taxation structure and vehicle for the wind energy business from the outset.
Delegates were asked to consider the tax liabilities of seeing any wind energy venture as an integral part of the farm or estate business under the banner of diversification or as a stand-alone operation.
The merits of the business entity whether a partnership, a limited company or a limited liability partnership – among other options - were presented by the Duncan & Toplis experts.
During and after both sessions, the audience shared their contrasting experiences of the views and attitudes of planning authorities, lending and financial institutions and the HMRC to this fast-growing and increasingly popular business opportunity.
While the normal wind speed at the Newmarket venue is 6 metres per second which is considered commercially viable for medium scale turbine operation, the blast coming across Newmarket heath on the day of that seminar, seem to summarise the shared experience of professionals and practitioners: the importance and imperative of being prepared to maximise the benefits of a suitable site and make best use of land asset and natural resource.