Borders Machinery Ring signs up for landmark solar power deal

Nil by Mouth's 2 year project to introduce anti sectarianism in the workplace.  Fergus Ewing at the initiative at the Trade Halls in Glasgow today.      Picture  Robert Perry  The Scotsman 30th  Nov  2010
Nil by Mouth's 2 year project to introduce anti sectarianism in the workplace. Fergus Ewing at the initiative at the Trade Halls in Glasgow today. Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 30th Nov 2010

THE Galashiels-based Borders Machinery Ring (BMR) has completed a landmark commercial deal with leading solar energy firm ISIS solar.

The BMR, started in 1987, was the first of its kind to be formed in the UK with some 23 farmers and contracters on board with the aim of rationalising and sharing labour, machinery and input costs.

Today, the ring has a membership of more than 850 rural businesses across the south of Scotland and an annual turnover of around £6million.

The deal, which has the backing of Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, will allow BMR members to generate their own electricity, helping to offset rising costs and reduce carbon emissions.

The arrangement has seen an initial £2 million raised, which will be used by ISIS to offer solar arrays up to 50kW at no cost, or alternatively through conventional sales. The deal with the BMR will immediately cover the costs of the first 1MW installed which the company expects to increase to 10MW in the future.

The initial sum will be made available to around 20 applicants but this is likely to exceed 100 within weeks. Thereafter the intention is to offer this to a wider Scottish audience.

Importantly, the deal shows that solar energy does have a role to play in Scotland’s future energy mix – an imperative given that First Minister Alex Salmond has increased the country’s renewable energy target to 100 per cent by 2020, whilst ruling out building new nuclear power stations.

The announcement of the commercial venture comes within weeks of the UK Government’s decision to significantly reduce the large- scale solar Feed-in Tariff, a subsidy for generating renewable energy from installations under 5MW. The fast-track review of this subsidy has caused a serious hiatus within the commercial solar industry, but this deal signals that post review, there are still considerable opportunities in the UK.

ISIS solar will predominantly be installing sub 50kW installations unaffected by the recent tariff review. The model is different to previous utility scale commercial projects because rather than exporting all the electricity to the National Grid, the power will be generated on site and for the direct benefit of the local business. With food price margins increasingly tight and rising fixed costs for farmers, ISIS solar is able to help by reducing rising costs in an effective way.

Lawrence Buckley, founder and director of ISIS solar, said: “This deal is just one example of how we are making solar power cost effective for the UK. We also offer panels at no cost to home owners for whom generating their own electricity is also helping to negate rising energy bills and fuel poverty.”

BMR manager Michael Bayne said the deal offered his members a “great opportunity” to generate their own electricity providing energy security against rising costs while reducing carbon emissions.

A business producing power on its own site, he said, could select future machinery and equipment on the basis of this renewable source of fuel.

Mr Ewing told us: “The Scottish Government’s 100 per cent renewable electricity target will be met by making the most of all of Scotland’s renewable resources, including solar energy.

“I welcome initiatives such as this which will allow households and businesses in Scotland to take advantage of the Feed in Tariff’s to significantly reduce their energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to Scotland’s low carbon future.”