UK Environment Secretary bemoans "eyesore" solar farms

The U.K. Environment Secretary Liz Truss has remarked that solar farms installed on rural agricultural land “make her heart sink” as the government prepares to scrap the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) payments to farmers who install solar farms on their land.

From January 1, farmers will no longer be eligible to receive CAP payments for any land that is used for the production of solar energy. The grant scheme was worth £2 million a year ($3.11 million), with an acre of land eligible for around £100. Existing and planned solar farms in the U.K. cover around 18,700 acres of farmland, which is the equivalent of more than 10,000 soccer pitches.

However, the U.K. government has made its feelings on ground-mounted, large-scale solar clear: the future lies in rooftop installations, particularly commercial-scale PV.

“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,” Truss told the Daily Telegraph. “That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields.”

Truss had earlier spoken of how her heart sinks when she sees “row upon row” of large-scale solar farms on agricultural land, adding how such land should fulfill its productive potential in growing food rather than generating energy.

“I do not want to see English farmland’s potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are fore and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful,” Truss added.

When Truss’s plans were first announced in October, many supporters of both the solar industry and the farming sector objected. The chief advisor on renewable energy and climate change at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Jonathan Scurlock told pv magazine that many farmers were in favor of using part of their land for solar development.

“Large-scale solar is already providing a lifeline for many farmers, underpinning agricultural production with additional returns that make their business more reliant,” said Scurlock.