Solar energy prospects for those who do their homework
Withy King is warning land and property owners to do their homework before rushing into solar energy opportunities.
The warning comes following wide-spread publicity about the benefits of solar energy development, and the rush to acquire suitable sites before 2012.
Solar Photo Voltaic (solar energy panels) is widely regarded as one of the most flexible and dependable renewable power technologies, and is currently supported by the Government’s Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) which offer funding to developers.
The tariffs were introduced in April 2010 as an incentive for property owners and utility providers to invest in renewable energy technology. The tariffs are guaranteed by Government until April 2012, after which the guaranteed price will most likely fall.
This could lead to many land owners rushing into development opportunities without seeking expert advice first.
Angus Williams, commercial property partner at Withy King Solicitors in Swindon, said: “Renewable energy developers are increasingly looking for suitable sites in urban and rural areas, presenting land and property owners with new and potentially lucrative business opportunities.
“Typically, they are looking for large expanses of open land or roof top spaces which can accommodate solar panels. Several of our clients have been approached in recent months by these types of developers, but we are urging them to approach these opportunities with caution.
“One of the key aspects for land owners to determine is that the particular developer or project is genuine, and has the knowledge and resources to bring the site forward and obtain the requisite planning consents. You do not want to risk tying up your site with a company that does not have the skills to bring the scheme to fruition – especially with the FIT deadline looming.
“If the developer is serious about your site, they will be willing to meet or make a significant contribution towards the cost of your professional fees. This should include taking advice from a suitably qualified surveyor, who will be able to look at the suitability of the site, rentals and associated issues such as access and servicing, advice from accountants on the tax implications and comprehensive legal advice on the documentation.
“We also advise land owners to address mortgage and security issues, and to only agree heads of terms after taking specialist advice. A solicitor should also be consulted before signing any agreements or paperwork with potential developers.”