Renewable Energy at Vine House Farm
I have always liked to use what I had on the farm rather than go and buy something so when I heard about straw burners to heat houses in the late seventies I thought that sounded like a good idea, as a farmer in South Lincolnshire I was burning my straw in the field because I had no use for it.
I invested in one and soon found that Linseed straw burnt better than wheat straw but wood burnt better and lasted longer than either wheat or linseed straw. At that time I was solely concerned about the cost but I believe soon after I had invested in the straw burner we had some sort of fuel scare and I realised that my straw burner was not just a cost saver, we were told that oil was not going to last for ever. In the 1990s I wasn’t saving any money at all as oil was so cheap, it was a labour of love, it would have been cheaper to heat my house by oil but my oil burner had been taken out and sent for scrap. About 1997 I replaced my original straw burner with a larger one to heat my office, a granny flat and my museum of agricultural hand tools.
It was around 1998 when a number of farmers in Deeping Fen were approached by Wind Prospect telling us that our farms were suitable for a wind farm. I replied by return of post saying that I was interested as I was interested in producing some renewable energy. Another farmer replied after 3 months and it was decided to have a joint wind farm of eight turbines.
Installing a wind farm is not a quick job, first of all Wind Prospect had to record the wind for two years to see if there was enough wind to make a wind farm viable and then there is of course public consultation and planning. The planning application was rejected so Wind Prospect went to an appeal and that appeal was won. Construction was started and the turbines started to turn in May 2006 and the 8 two megawatt turbines have been turning ever since.
In 2003 I erected a 40 ft x 100 ft building to mix and pack bird seed, it was next to my refrigerated potato store and the waste heat from the refrigeration plant was wafting towards this new building, so I moved the radiator and fans of this plant into the new building and this waste heat then and still does heat this building. I was heating a building for nothing!
My bird seed business continued to expand, I needed another building so I erected a 100 ft x 120 ft building, it was bigger than what I needed but I had bought this building a few years earlier for £8000 when it was being taken down in the village.
Having erected the building it needed heating as men were going to be working in it all through the winter. I looked around for a renewable way and I came up with using waste oil in a purpose made heater and so now I don’t have to think of who I am going to pay to take the waste oil from our tractors away, we use it as heating oil.
Solar voltaic panels came along in 2011 as far as I was concerned. As I had three farms with south facing roofs I was able to install 150 kw of panels and since then the price of panels has come down so much I have installed another 50 kw.
In 2012 I replaced my second bio-mass boiler with a third one that now heats my farm shop and new offices and I now am getting paid by government on the Renewable Heat Incentive for burning waste.
In late 2012 two 100 kw wind turbines were erected, these had taken over two years to come to fruition and they were erected at the end of November in a very wet period, the 100 ton crane erecting them managed to get stuck but the end result was good and they are now making lots of electric. The electric goes into the farm buildings where there are potato stores and grain stores using electric most of the year, any surplus is exported into the grid.
I estimate that if I had not had my bio-mass boiler I would have used 200,000 litres of heating oil since 1980 and each 2 mega watt wind turbine that I have on the farm creates the same amount of energy in a year that is used by 1000 homes. My solar panels, my waste oil burner and the waste heat from my potato store are all saving fossil fuels. I believe that the price of energy will continue to increase and oil will not last forever and so we should use renewable energy instead of oil whenever we can.