As almost every inch of agriculture involves the sun, it’s clear why farmers are using their fields to harvest its power.

With rising electricity costs, escalating overheads and the profitability of businesses at stake, many more are now diversifying and reaping the financial returns of using farm building roof space or unusable land for solar panels.

While cynicism still wields its ugly head with the effect this has on food production opportunities, renewable experts argue that solar farms pose no threat to the UK’s food security.

In fact, many believe that solar power and farming are not mutually exclusive due to the multi-functional use of land.

Push Power is the UK’s largest privately owned development of solar photovoltaic (PV), having developed, designed and built over 200MW of utility-scale solar farms across the country, many of which help farmers offset their energy usage.

The business demand and sector interest for electricity generation is only widening.

The Colchester-based company has the biggest landlords, supermarkets, landmarks and the largest online retailer in the world on its books, and more than 1GW of PV generating capacity under management by its operations and maintenance business.

Yet, as the power of solar continues to shine its light on our clean green future, it isn’t exempt from facing the same challenges as other sectors in the industry, according to Push Power’s managing director, Andy Khan.

Eastern Daily Press: Andy Khan, managing director of Push PowerAndy Khan, managing director of Push Power (Image: Push Power)
“One of our biggest challenges in the industry is the grid. It doesn’t matter whether you are installing solar in your own private property, you must still ask permission to add that material to connect to the local Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

“Certain areas in the UK have a limited capacity. We regularly do a lot of work to meet the clients and targets, only to be told there is a restriction in the local area when applying for the grid connection and we have no project. That’s the biggest risk. Following on from that is planning permission for a ground mount, which can at times take up to two years, dependent on the size.”

The last 18 months have been spent working on a battery storage solution, with a hybrid and solar system to manage the energy load, meaning it can be stored and ready to use when it’s needed.

“System DC coupled batteries take the onus off the local grid network and allows you to store that energy into batteries,” said Andy.

“We have spent a lot of time doing research and development into how we can facilitate the service for commercial and industrial clients, and now we are at the point where we are delivering our solar battery solutions for a lot of farming clients.”

Push Power’s one-stop shop of services starts with development and design through to build and operation, helping companies to maximise energy savings, hit carbon targets and increase profitability.

Every aspect is managed by an in-house team from the first site meeting with the client to the planning, construction and commissioning of the project.

Andy said their approach set the business apart from its competitors.

“We install anything from small commercial 300kW, all the way up to 18MW ground mount systems and beyond.

“We’re a team of 34 with design, construction, project support team, project managers, business development, management team and our operations and maintenance sister company all in the same office.

“We have recently developed, designed and sold off a 70MW ground mount site, doing all the work from concept to ‘ready to build’. We have the depth in expertise to understand what clients want and need from smaller business owners looking to save some money and be green, up to investment grade installations connected to the 132kV infrastructure.

“Our job is to design, optimise and construct solar and battery energy storage solutions to meet specific power, control and capacity needs.”

Eastern Daily Press:  Treestacks Farm had 610 solar panels installed in total – 244kW of rooftop PV solar and 432kWh of battery storage Treestacks Farm had 610 solar panels installed in total – 244kW of rooftop PV solar and 432kWh of battery storage (Image: Push Power)
Push Power was set up in 2012 by CEO Stuart Bradshaw, a chartered accountant with a farming background, who launched the business as an independent solar provider for farmers when the first feed-in tariff was introduced.

As regulations changed and there was more appetite for solar, Stuart began to build multiple, large scale solar farms, building up the business over a five-year period.

It expanded to The Push Investment Group, which now has a portfolio of companies, successfully trading in multiple sectors with renewable energy and sustainability at the forefront of every approach.

One such company is PSH Operations, now its sister company, one of the largest operations and maintenance companies in the UK, which services, maintains and monitors not only Push Power sites but also other independent clients.

Andy said: “This allowed us to focus on the commercial and industrial installation market, working on a wide variety of projects including Tesco, Penguin Books, The Wing conference centre at Silverstone, some of the largest landlords in the UK, like Aviva, servicing their tenants and as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor (EPC) for Centrica.

“People have no choice but to learn about the nature of solar and the benefits. Solar is quite easy to understand, but what people don’t know is the process we go through to identify whether a client has got a project or not. It’s our job to explain that to them. We educate and tailor the project to each client’s specific needs.”

Read more about the East of England’s energy industry in the latest issue of Insight Energy.