On Monday 20 October, environment secretary Liz Truss announced that farmland should be used for “food and crops” and not solar farms.
The change will come into effect from January 2015 and will mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments through the Common Agricultural Policy for the land.
Commenting on the announcement, Solar Trade Association head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “It is damaging and incorrect for Defra to suggest that solar farms are in conflict with food production. The government’s own planning guidance makes clear that farming practices should continue on solar farms on greenfield land.
“The industry, working with the National Farmers Union, has been very careful to define good practice to ensure continued agricultural production. Indeed, detailed guidance on this is being discussed by the All Party Group for Beef and Lamb in the House of Commons today.”
She added: “The land is still available for farming – the solar fixings only take up 5% of the land. This means plenty of room for continued agricultural practices such as sheep, geese or chicken farming. As far as farm payments are concerned, solar should really be treated in the same way as orchards or fields with trees, where animals continue to graze the land in between.”
According to Ms Greene, solar farms have an important role to play in conserving the countryside through saving huge amounts of greenhouse gas as well as providing stability for farmers who face increasing weather risk caused by climate change.