While communities may object to renewable energy projects such as wind farms, the projects can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to farmers.
Having wind turbines on commercial farms can boost the property value, according to Herron Todd White rural valuation specialist for South Australia and north-west Victoria Angus Shaw.
Last year, South Australia surpassed the previous State Government’s target of meeting 50 per cent of the state’s energy needs from renewable energy.
Renewable energy companies pay farmers to allow them to use part of their land for projects such as wind turbines and solar arrays.
Mr Shaw said the annual income could increase the value of a farm by three times the amount farmers were being paid by the energy company, if not more.
Colliers International agribusiness valuation and advisory national director Alex Thamm said renewable energy was a passive source of income for farmers.
“In some instances that could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s a direct revenue stream without owning an animal,” he said.
But it is not all free money
However, Mr Shaw warned there were downsides to renewable energy on-farm.
In the case of solar arrays, Mr Shaw said they prevented any grazing underneath them, unlike wind turbines.
He said farmers should take into account that wind farms could cause noise and block views, which decreased the amenity of the property.
“Farmers or anyone don’t generally like them close to their residence,” he said.
“It may be a wind turbine tower is going to be put smack bang in their nice view of the sea or the mountainside, so that affects negotiations.”
In the case of hobby farms and lifestyle blocks, Mr Shaw said wind turbines could harm the property values.
And if a property lease was only for a few years, the income from the renewable energy may not offset the impact on the amenity.
When it comes to the impact on neighbouring properties, objections to wind turbines normally focus on their impact on the liveability of the surrounding area.
Mr Shaw said neighbouring commercial properties should not be negatively affected, but lifestyle properties could be.
“In a commercial-scale farming enterprise, renewables have limited impact on neighbouring property with the exceptions of easements, right of way and so on which may burden adjoining sites,” he said.
However, the visual blight could have an impact on the added value of improvements in rural lifestyle areas.
Some certainty in an uncertain industry
Hornsdale farmer Chris Stacey has had five wind turbines on his property for about two years, and said he was lucky to have them.
Mr Stacey did not want to say how much he was paid to have the turbines on his land, but he did say the steady income from wind turbines protected his business against bad years.
“We are taking advantage of the fact that the weather can be quite windy here.”
Mr Stacey said the turbines had been placed on parts of his land that were not good for cropping.
Besides the benefits for himself, he said the wind turbines had been a boon for local businesses due to all the workers brought to the area during construction.