7 June 2022

Are you a landowner looking for a way to reduce your energy costs and bring in valuable rental income? Leasing your land to become a solar farm could help to kill two birds with one stone. With rising demand for renewable energy, farm owners are in an ideal position to repurpose their land to become hubs for solar and renewable energy. The UK is committed to meeting net zero by 2050, with green energy playing a vital role in achieving this ambitious goal.

If you want to future-proof your property and make passive income, solar farms are a win-win. The steady growth of the renewable power industry and substantial government support provides the background for the ideal time to explore your options of leasing your land to become a solar farm.

The expanding UK solar market

All you have to do is switch on the news channels to see the continued growth of the renewable power industry – particularly solar power. Research by the International Energy Agency suggests that solar power will account for 60% of global renewable capacity in the coming year.

The UK government is committed to promoting the solar market as a way to meet its goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. Current statistics suggest that solar capacity will double to 16 GW by 2030 – but it’s not enough to meet the government’s goal post target of 40GW for 2030 to sustainably met net zero. If the UK wants to meet its commitment of net zero by 2050, it needs to hit 85Gw. 

The focus on solar power comes primarily from its cost-effective nature, making it more affordable for all parties. Commercial solar photovoltaics (PV) have dropped 85% since 2010 as the industry continues to thrive. Landowners who have an easy connection to the National Grid are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the rising demand for solar power.

The group of landowners who are most likely to have the facilities are farmers. These agriculture areas are ideal with their open spaces and connections to the National Grid. 

What are the benefits of converting unused land to solar farms

Landowners with large outdoor spaces are being encouraged to explore the option of leasing their land to become solar farms. This conversion brings with it several benefits for both the landowner and the surrounding community.

1. Presents a passive income opportunity

Agriculture spaces rarely offer the potential for passive income opportunities. Leasing your farmland to be converted into solar farms could earn you a substantial per-acre price that will be dependent on the location and size of your land. Choosing to lease your land instead of building the solar farm yourself removes development and legal costs that are then made the responsibility of the developer.

The rate that you’ll receive from the developer for leasing your land will depend on a variety of factors, including the installation of the solar panels, size of the land, and costs related to connecting to the National Grid.

Solar farms offer long-term, passive income potential, with most leasing arrangements lasting several decades with index-linked rental opportunities. With agriculture navigating changing regulations and the loss of EU funding, solar farming represents an opportunity for agriculture landowners to change their fortune.

2. Less of an “eye sore” than wind farming

Landowners who are interested in exploring renewable energy will often plan to section off part of their land for this conversion. If you plan to use other areas of your land, you’ll want to consider the visible impact of this. Wind turbines can present an “eye sore” and are often not the first choice for landowners in rural areas.

Solar panels have a lower visible impact than wind turbines and lower maintenance. The operation of your solar farm can be monitored and controlled remotely, while the machines produce no noise. If you want to section off your solar farm, it can be covered with hedges or a fence.

3. Your land can still be used for agricultural purposes

The development of solar farms means that your land can be used for the dual purpose of producing renewable energy and still providing a grazing area for wild stock. If you’re an active farm, it means you still explore the potential of leasing part of your land to a developer to be converted into a solar farm.

You can choose an area of low-grade land for your solar farm and boost the biodiversity by planting flowers and grass mixes to attract key pollinators.

4. Solar farms can be decommissioned at the end of the lease

Signing a lease for a solar farm isn’t an indefinite contract. You have the freedom to decide to return your land to its original use at the end of your contract. The set-up of a solar farm means that it can be decommissioned and converted back to its previous state. You’ll want to discuss decommissioning with your developer if this is something you’d like the option of.

Battery storage facilities for solar energy

A solar farm is only effective when it is paired with a battery energy storage system. Connecting your solar farm to the National Grid presents an additional passive income stream by allowing the grid to utilize recovered energy at peak times. The role of solar farms in facilitating the UK’s net zero ambitions means battery storage facilities are a key asset for landowners across the country.

How landowners can lease their property to solar farms

If you’re interested in converting your unused land into a solar farm, there are a few practical steps you need to take. Start by checking if your land has a grid connection or if there’s one in an adjacent property. 

When you get in contact with a developer, they’ll assess the potential capacity of your proposed solar farm and determine whether local planning laws would be in favour of the development. They’ll also determine the cost of connecting the property to the National Grid.

You’ll enter contract negotiations with the developer and agree on the terms for the lease of the land. Once the developer has the option to lease, they’ll seek the relevant planning permission and begin development of your solar farm. Exploring the option of leasing your land to a solar farm developer means you can regenerate your property and invest in a passive income stream that will benefit future generations.