As part of the latest Rural View magazine, Carter Jonas interviewed Yorkshire-based farmer and client Chris Hobson of T H Hobson to discuss the important role renewable investment has had in the business. Chris runs the business with his brother Nick, operating across two holdings, Woodhouse and Wynam, under a Crown Estate tenancy. The 700ha arable land and 400-cow dairy business is supported by two 50kW wind turbines and a 250kW ground mount solar PV which also feeds electricity to the barn converted offices on the land.
Chris bought into renewable energy early, when the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) made the business case more attractive. In 2012, the Hobsons and the Crown Estate jointly invested in two 50kW Endurance E3120 wind turbines on grassland close to the milk parlour, with the aim of offsetting as much electricity as possible during milking and also provide an additional income stream from selling the surplus generation to the grid via a competitive PPA, brokered by Carter Jonas. The Feed-in Tariff was also secured at 24.6p/kWh and is guaranteed until 2032.
While the business measures the success of the turbines by the gross output, their role in enhancing the profitability of the dairy herd cannot be ignored. “The diary market is really tough”, Chris said, “and farmers have been under a lot of pressure due to the milk price. The wind turbines help to reduce our electricity bill from the dairy to £1,100/month from £1,500/month so it is important.”
In 2015, the business made the decision to joint invest again with the Crown Estate to install a 250kW ground mount solar PV system with the aim of supporting the electricity demand at both the farm and office units. At least half the electricity generated is consumed on site due to most of the power demand being during the daytime, with the rest being exported to the grid via a PPA. The Feed-in tariff was also secured at 10.85p/kWh which helped improve the financial model. Even with the Feed-in Tariff now closed, solar PV is still viable for businesses with a high energy use as the majority of the generated electricity can be used to offset demand. This is particularly pertinent in current markets as electricity prices are forecast to rise further in the next few years.
The Hobsons, with the help of Carter Jonas, are now looking at the potential for battery storage to be incorporated alongside the generators to enhance the income streams further. The battery market is evolving quickly with costs coming down considerably in the last year alone and Chris is keen to invest when he sees the market at its optimum. For many clients with existing generation on site, battery storage could be the logical next step in optimising assets and income streams.
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