Community solar farm partnership offers local investors solar bond profits
A new joint venture will see solar farms offering returns on local investments to communities in Kent and Warwickshire.
The three solar farms - with a total of 34MW of capacity - have been acquired by Foresight Solar Fund with Big60Million, a community-benefit energy company.
Big60Million’s solar bonds offer local communities the opportunity to benefit financially from solar power generation through a low-risk investment, which offers investments of as little as £60 with a 6% return per annum.
The venture has seen the purchase of three solar farms, 15MW Atherstone and 10MW Southam in Warwickshire and the 9MW Paddock Wood solar farm in Kent. The three farms will produce enough energy to power around 10,000 local homes.
Foresight Group head of solar Ricardo Pineiro said the partnership between institutional and community finance could work as a template for future co-investments, as well as increasing community involvement in solar generation.
Big60Million’s work at the sites also sees the creation of biodiversity zones and new wildlife habitats at each site, as well as education resources for local schools.
Big60Million CEO Toddington Harper said: “The solar farms at Atherstone, Southam and Paddock Wood set the standard for the UK solar industry in terms of local community involvement and biodiversity enhancement.”
The three solar projects were connected to the grid in March 2015 - just in time to qualify for the Renewable Obligation (RO) 1.4 rate. Solar power plants of more than 5MW are now excluded from receiving Government support under scheme following changes in April.
Ray Sweet, Mayor of North Warwickshire called the project a “triple win” for Atherstone: “It offers an attractive return when bank interest rates are low, it will generate enough clean energy to power over 4,000 homes, and it will create a nature sanctuary as a resource for our community.”
The solar industry has been encouraged to commit to greater levels of community financing by the Solar Trade Association (STA) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change. One of the ten commitments of the STA reads: "We will offer investment opportunities to communities in their local solar farms where there is local appetite and where it is commercially viable."
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