Our first few tea plants (camellia sinensis) in their new home in our polytunnel.
The UK government has dealt another huge blow to the renewable energy industry; announcing that HMRC will end the 5% discounted rate of VAT for solar panels (solar PV) on the 1st October this year (1). This will mean a huge jump in the price of solar panel systems to anyone considering them for their home, and will dramatically decrease the appeal as the ‘payback time’ increases.
This follows the government allowing the ‘Feed-in-tariff’ on renewables to lapse on the 31st March. The Feed-in-tariff required that electricity companies paid those with solar panels around 5p per unit for electricity which they exported to the national grid, the electricity companies would then sell the electricity to neighbouring houses for an average of 14p per unit – a profit of around 9p per unit. Despite the profit the electricity companies were making this was referred to as a subsidy for solar. Now the electricity companies will get any export (from new installations) for free, and sell that to neighbours for around a 14p profit instead, a much better deal for the energy companies but no good for those with solar panels who are forced to give their electricity away for free.
Following the removal of the feed-in-tariff, demand for solar panels dropped sharply as homeowners considered the payback period less attractive. Now, the removal of the VAT reduction will see this payback period worsen further. Although solar will likely remain a viable financial investment and help the fight against man made climate change, the investment will look far less attractive and means giving electricity away for free.
The announcement of the increase in VAT follows the government’s declaration of a climate emergency on the 1st May after extensive protests across the uk, spearheaded by the extension rebellion movement.
Perhaps most outrageously of all, fossil fuels will continue to attract a reduced rate of 5% whilst receiving subsidies of £10.5 billion per year in the UK (2) – higher than any other country in Europe, and much higher than subsidies for renewables, leaving us behind the rest of the world in decarbonisation.
It’s been a year now since we started our adventure at Sharney Bridge Farm and it’s been a busy one; with a lot of hard work and a lot of learning that will help us with the further adventures we have to come.
Over the year we have been working hard at gaining an understanding of the site, through careful monitoring and small scale trials of different crops in test beds, including companion planting. We have been making observations and recordings, taking soil samples and photographing different parts of the site during different times of the year. By doing this, we have been able to get an understanding of the intricacies of the site, particularly what grows well and where – both naturally and when cultivated. We have been able to see ways that the site can be worked with and improved upon, using permaculture methods, in the future.
We have been rewilding 5 acres; to encourage and support local wildlife and to improve the quality of the soil whilst strengthening it against future degradation and flooding. We have scythed 3 acres for poultry, crops and paths, which has also given us hay, and more opportunities to learn the lay of the land.
We built a shed and chicken coops as well as raised beds and no-dig beds. We have built and mended fences to make boundaries and created edges for wildlife to flourish in. In doing this we have been fortunate enough to observe a wide variety of wildlife, including pheasants, hares, muntjacs, deer and owls.
We have become members of the Permaculture Association – a research charity supporting a network of people and organisations using permaculture and even had research briefings published by them on the application of sustainable technology in permaculture and useful weeds. We have also become members of the Landworkers’ Association – a grassroots union representing farmers, growers and other land based workers.
We have successfully grown test crops, including potatoes, spinach, cress and chives. We have planted wildflowers and harvested berries, hops and of some other useful weeds for making produce.
We rescued chickens from factory farming, thanks to the British Hen Welfare Trust and brought them to live free range on the farm. Heartbreakingly, many of the chickens were taken by a fox but we are still so pleased and proud, that we were able to give them many extra months living free range, happy and healthier lives at the farm.
A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us over the year, we couldn’t have achieved a fraction of this without some fantastic friends and family. It’s been hard work but we have had lovely times too, we look forward to many more.
Our green gifts are a fantastic way to to give this Christmas whilst helping to support our fledgling permaculture farm.
Gifts include sponsoring the rescuing of chickens from factory farming to be re-homed, to live free-range at our permaculture farm.
Through sponsorship of animals and plants at Sharney Bridge Farm, your gift will help support the local ecosystem and encourage wildlife to flourish.
For more information or to purchase, Click Here.
TreeThinker aims to create a rich, permaculture farm, part of this involves the rewilding of a five acres of previous pasture land, in order to encourage and support local wildlife.
Rewilding is a conservation process which helps nature to take its course by allowing spaces to develop naturally, whilst providing connectivity with related ecosystems and encouraging biodiversity. The process helps to revive the countryside and restore degraded eco-systems, it enables the self-regulating systems which developed over millennia to restore the natural balance. By taking a step back in certain parts of the countryside, damaged landscapes can repair and soil can recover from modern farming practices which remove nutrients and reduce biodiversity. The process allows ground cover to grow, maintaining nutrients whilst binding the soil and protecting it from the affects of flooding. At the same time, the growth acts to store carbon and produce oxygen, helping the environment as a whole.
European wildlife species diversity is steadily declining due to habitat destruction, pesticides and over exploitation of resources. Our wildlife, much of which may seem mundane now, is at risk. Some of this wildlife has critical ecological roles to play, rewilding helps to protect these, restore lost species and encourages declining species to thrive.