Praise for renewables info day at Duns farm

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Last week’s farm visit to see renewables at Woodend, near Duns, has won rave reviews from participants.

Sustainable producer John Seed, who has farmed Woodend with his wife Louise, son Donald and daughter Lindsay since 2008, invited interested parties to see the 200ha farm’s 950kW biomass, 75kW wind and 50kW solar PV units.

Post-event comments range from ‘knowledgeable and believable speakers’ to ‘the visit helped me decide which option would be best for our system’ and ‘the integrated nature of the technologies is excellent. Keep it simple message (and) flexible systems that work at the farm level’.

The Seeds specialise in arable crops and free-range eggs, renewable energy and conservation. The renewables systems have meant the farm has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels, cut energy costs and can still harvest and dry its crops quickly and efficiently.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Seed, who is also a bio-energy specialist, said: “The farming sector has become too reliant on fossil fuels. Using renewable energy allows farmers to reduce the risk from volatile world fuel markets.

“Fossil fuel used to cost Woodend Farming Partnership (WFP) £128,000 per year. Including the Renewable Heat Incentive and Feed In Tariff payments, energy costs are now a net positive. Farmers can’t change the price they receive for their crops, but they can influence their variable costs such as energy and fertiliser.

“The installations have also changed the way we go about our business. WFP can now cut our grain earlier, when it is at its best quality, instead of waiting for it to drop to 17 per cent moisture, as our grain drying set-up means that drying is no longer a major cost.

“The mix of technologies has also given us a better balance to our energy generation. It’s windy in the winter, and sunny in the summer. By having solar panels and a wind turbine, this creates a more stable supply of electricity rather than reliance on just one technology. By comparison, biomass supplies heat all year round.”

The on-farm event was organised by NFU Scotland’s Renewable Development Initiative (RDI), aimed at helping farmers and land managers fulfil their energy-generating potential. The visit also included workshops looking at finance, straw boilers, grain driers, district heating, wind turbines and solar.

The main reasons for the Seeds’ investments into renewable energy were to reduce energy costs and be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible, says the family.

Mr Seed also runs Topling Ltd, a biomass boiler supply and installation business serving the rural market for biomass heating and distribution systems, mainly for district heating, crop conditioning and livestock production systems.

And he is also the founding director and chairman of Helius Energy Plc, a biomass energy development company delivering biomass energy projects.

For more information on the Renewable Initiative, visit http://www.renewableenergyonfarms.co.uk.