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Fri 6 January 2023
The journey to net zero and the current gas price increases means that interest in renewable energy continues to be strong.
Acting for landowners, we are currently involved in several solar farm projects. The reduced cost of the solar technology and the change in energy prices means that solar farm schemes can now be viable without the withdrawn Government support.
The availability and cost of connection to the Grid is a key factor which can make a scheme unviable. However, it is worth keeping a site under review as the Grid capacity picture does change.
Larger solar schemes are becoming more controversial to the loss of agricultural land and impact on the landscape, and it is therefore worth being aware of the planning rules. Local Authorities should now be including in their Local Plans maps to show which areas of their district/borough are suitable for renewable energy schemes and preference is usual given to areas of poorer quality agricultural land (Grade 3b or below).
Solar operators are on the search for suitable sites and will often have carried out a desktop analysis of the land grade and potential grid connection before making an approach to the landowner. Our involvement covers the negotiation of the detailed heads of terms to set out the proposed agreement between the landowner and the solar operator. Apart from the usual headlines of rent and length of agreement (typically 30 to 40 years) it is often the detailed terms that are equally important – such as the reinstatement provisions at the end of the lease, rent review provisions, battery storage etc.
If you are a private landowner, you also need to consider the tax implications of changing the use of your land away from agriculture. Solar farm rents can produce a higher rental income from the land and are not linked to the fortunes of the farming sector – they therefore offer a useful diversification.
If you are approached by a solar operator and would like assistance with the negotiations, or would like any advice on the subject, please contact our rural team on 01509 243720.