A 5 MW solar farm just outside Swindon in the south west of England is on the verge of becoming the country’s first community-led solar project.
The 30-acre Westmill solar farm, which is home to over 21,000 polycrystalline solar cells producing 4.8 GWh of electricity a year, is giving the local community the option to buy shares in the development.
Potential investors will be able to put from £250 to £20,000 into the solar farm, which will produce enough electricity to power 1400 homes and offset around 2000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The director of Westmill Solar, Adam Twine, a local organic farmer, says the aim is to make the deal as accessible as possible as a long-term investment to any individual or organisation. Elsewhere in Europe the community ownership model is more commonplace and in Denmark 23% of all renewable energy is community-owned.
“This will probably be the only opportunity to invest in a solar project of this scale,” he says. “It’s not very often you have a chance to do something where you can make money and have a directly positive impact on climate change.”
The solar farm has been up and running since last August and is receiving the feed-in tariff from the government, but Twine says he expects to be oversubscribed with potential investors.
The organisers hope to raise £4 million equity from the share offer and is also working with investment bank Investec on a bond for the debt required to purchase the £15 million project from seed investor Blue Energy.
The share offer will be officially opened on June 23 by Minister for Culture, Communications & the Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, and run until the end of July unless it is oversubscribed.
Twine has also set-up a community-owned wind farm on the same site, which raised £4.3 million in its share offer in 2007 and has 2300 members.
For further information:
UK government promises ‘certainty’ with fresh solar FIT cuts in August (25-May)
Solar power closer to competitiveness than realised, says report (23-May)
UK’s largest community-owned wind farm seeks go ahead (10-May)
Leading solar companies join force to expand deployment (4-May)
30 May 2012