31 May, 2011
A Blog by Sonya Bedford, Head of
Renewables at Stephens Scown solicitors.
An increasing number of landowners in the Westcountry are
turning to small-scale rooftop energy generation. At Stephens
Scown we think it could be the start of a new phase in solar
development activity and believe that many farmers are taking
advantage of roof-space on both traditional and modern buildings
that would otherwise be unproductive.
Most installations at this stage appear to be barns close to
potential grid connection points, as the process for getting
planning consent for these circumstances is generally more benign
than for larger-scale proposals for green fields.
When considering using this type of energy generation that are a
whole host of issues that property owners need to give careful
consideration to. For example what are your current
electrical requirements and will the installation service your
needs sufficiently? Generated electricity cannot be stored and -
particularly in the case of dairies - during the winter it is
likely that most electrical requirements will be during dark/dusk
hours when there is no sunlight to produce electricity.
Leasing roof-space for a solar power installation can take even
more thought than constructing a ground-mounted system on a
Brownfield or Greenfield site. Not only will you need to consider
how to set it up you also need to think about what will happen at
the end of the lease, for instance will you have the right to keep
the panels or will you be obligated to remove them and return them
to the installer?
In a commercial context, the implications may be less than in a
residential one but getting the right professional advice from
surveyors, valuers, structural engineers and solicitors and
insurers is still important.
It's worth remembering that anything which results in a
permanent structure, or any alteration to a building that
materially affects its external appearance, may require planning
permission. If the development is covered by permitted development
rights, it will not be necessary to get permission.
Permitted development rights apply to domestic micro-generation
equipment including the installation, alteration or replacement of
solar PV panels on buildings or on land within the curtilage of a
dwelling. Detailed restrictions do apply but there are conditions
to these rights, and they don't apply universally, so need to be
carefully considered in each case.
There are a lot of practical implications to think about too,
including whether the roof is fit-for-purpose for an installation,
access, standards of workmanship and accreditation, health and
safety and fire risks, future plans for the building and whether
you're able to personally use some of the power generated, as well
as selling to the Grid.
Legal implications might also include deciding responsibility
for the maintenance of the fabric of the building, interaction with
neighbouring properties, additional rights from third parties and
negotiations with developers.
Stephens Scown has a Beginner's Guide to rooftop solar power -
to request a copy.
For more information and advice about renewable energy and micro
generation, contact Sonya Bedford at Stephens Scown. Visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk or call 01392
Sonya Bedford is Associate and Head of Renewable
Energy at Stephens Scown. Sonya specialises in the agricultural
sector helping farmers and landowners with acquisitions and
disposal of farms and estates; farming tenancies and partnerships;
land management and diversification. She has experience acting for
landowners in the renewable energy field in particular options with
wind farm developers and sustainable development.
Image source: pixor on www.flickr.com