Huge solar farm plugs in for ‘Indian summer’

Joseph Bulmer

South Molton farmer meets government’s renewable energy deadline with North Devon’s largest solar array

A SOUTH Molton business has succeeded in its race to build what is thought to be largest solar photovoltaic project in North Devon.

Farmers Steven and Jo Bedford have completed the 250 kW project just before the final deadline of a Government incentive scheme for renewable energy.

The groundbreaking system means that the Bedfords will produce enough clean, green electricity to power their farm and timber business, while feeding its surplus energy back into the national grid.

“This is a huge step in our plan to eventually avoid buying any fossil fuels,” said Steven Bedford, managing director of Bedford Timbers.

“It means that we are almost self-sufficient in terms of the electricity we use.”

The Bedfords’ solar PV array has already produced enough electricity to power the equivalent of 30 houses and saved 20 tonnes of Co2. They hope to add more measures that will help them become self sufficient in the near future.

The ground mounted solar array comprises more than 1,000 solar panels and was constructed over a two month period by another South Molton company, Source Renewable, which is based at Pathfields Business Park.

Laurie Eve, managing director of Source Renewable, said: “This is the biggest scheme we have installed to date, and it’s particularly satisfying to know that the energy it generates is benefiting not only the local environment but also a local business.”

Since April last year the Government’s financial incentive for renewable energy – the Feed-in Tariff – has been paying a premium for those that generate their own renewable energy.

For large schemes such as the one installed for the Bedfords, the rate was slashed for solar systems fitted after August 1 this year, which has made it financial unfeasible for many bigger businesses to commission renewables projects.

Rates remain high for homes and businesses wanting to install systems under 50 kW in size.

Mr Eve added: “For most landowners and homeowners, solar panels are still a great idea. They reduce reliance on electricity suppliers and earn owners a 10-15 per cent return on their investment each year, which is a much better rate than their money would earn in a bank.”