UK farmers with solar farms on their land will no longer be eligible for any farm subsidies under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from January 2015.
The department of environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) claims that the move “will help rural communities who do not want their countryside blighted by solar farms”.
Environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss said: “English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.”
Defra claims that the move will save up to £2 million (US$3.2 million) of taxpayers’ money each year. The department said that the move is designed to mirror the department of energy and climate change’s (DECC) recent move to scrap renewable obligation support for solar farms over 5MW from April 2015. Large solar farms will instead have to compete with onshore wind and other technologies in an auction.
Defra said that it is enacting the changes to “slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England” as it is now “less financially attractive for farmers to install the solar panels”.
Truss concluded: “I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.
“That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields. Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry.”
Reacting to the news, Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “Constantly fiddling with renewable energy policies and sending mixed messages to the media will cost Britain dearly in jobs, investment and energy security. Done correctly, solar farms can go hand-in-hand with food production, boost biodiversity and deliver clean electricity to the nation. Poorly-sited solar farms should be dealt with through the planning system and sensible policy, not knee jerk responses to appease reactionary voices.”